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Seasonal Affective Disorder

by Phil Marks


Autumn is a SAD Time of Year for Sufferers


The onset of autumn has an adverse effect on many people. The group of symptoms occurring at that time of year – in the absence of other explanations - has been named Seasonal Affective Disorder – or SAD in short. You may know what it’s like – the wet and grey days of autumn, accentuated by the shortening length of day have a lowering effect on one’s mood. I know, I suffer from it.  The good news is that it gets better in the spring, for most people.


What are the Symptoms? These include any or all of :- depression, sleep problems, lethargy, overeating, loss of concentration, social problems, anxiety, loss of libido, mood problems. Usually, a diagnosis is based on 3 consecutive winters of the same symptoms. Fortunately, I don't have all these symptoms!


Who Suffers?  People who live within the tropics – say between 30 degrees north and south of the equator – rarely experience it. In that region, the days are of a relatively fixed length close to 12 hours or so, and the intensity of light is high due to the sun’s high average altitude in the sky. If you live outside that region, then you may be susceptible. This is an obvious clue to one of the potential remedies – go and live near the Equator. Outside the tropics, it is estimated that 4-6% of the general population are sufferers, though many more – maybe 20% - present symptoms but fall outside a strict diagnosis.


Is it gender-related? Yes, indications are that women sufferers outnumber men by 4 to 1.


Is it age-related? Onset tends to be between the ages of 18 and 30 years.


What causes it? Undoubtedly, it is basically down to changing hours of sunlight and lower levels of daylight intensity. In scientific terms, it is the disruption of the body’s clock - known as the circadian rhythm. There are various theories as to how this affects the body. One is that it causes a reduction in the brain’s production of melatonin – this chemical governs sleep. Another theory involves the reduced production of serotonin, which is a neurotransmitter and governs our mood.


Genetic? There have been suggestions that it is related to a deep rooted hibernation cycle from way back in our genetic ancestry.


Is there a cure? This will depend on the severity of the symptoms. There are a number of approaches, including drugs, light therapy and moving home. I think the last one is the most attractive! I was really happy in Brazil…


How did it affect me? Seasonal Affective Disorder

Further Information on my SAD website


© 2009 Phil Marks




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