Seasonal Affective Disorder (SADD) affects people who are extremely sensitive to winter’s increased melatonin secretions and lack of sunshine. People with SADD produce too much melatonin. This disrupts their internal body clock leading to depressive symptoms. You may have SADD if you have had episodes of depression that clearly have an onset in fall or winter followed by remission of symptoms in the spring or summer.
People in northern climates experience more SADD than people living in southern climates. Other factors contributing to seasonal affective disorder may include genetics and age. Symptoms of SADD include lethargy, irritability, loss of libido, and self-esteem, mood changes and overeating. Sufferers typically oversleep in the morning and experience weight gain from cravings for sweets and other carbohydrates especially at night.
Some experts believe that because of our heightened melatonin secretions, individuals slow down, have less energy and need more rest in the wintertime, much like hibernating animals. Most people manage to adjust to those increased melatonin secretions. SADD occurs when the seasonal slowdown begins to interfere with this internal adjustment.
SADD light therapy (phototherapy) can be used to treat SADD. The type of light used, distance from the light, and amount of time, are very specific. You need to have your eyes open, so that the light can reach the retina in the back of your eye. You do not have to look directly at the light. You can read, knit, etc. The light purchased should have information on exactly how to use the light effectively. The distance you sit from the light will range from about 12 to 18 inches. The light will not emit damaging UV rays. Typically, light therapy is done in the morning, as it can cause insomnia if done too late in the day. Speak with your health care provider if you think you may have SADD. You can purchase a phototherapy light without a prescription, but speak with your provider first. Some insurance companies may cover some of the cost. Treat SADD, so you can enjoy this beautiful time of year!
SADD lights can be purchased at the Agnesian Health Shoppe, located at 421 Camelot Drive, Fond du Lac.