Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Seasonal Affective Disorder

One of the preeminent authorities on Seasonal Affective Disorder, SAD, is Dr. Norman Rosenthal, author of Winter Blues: Everything You Need to Know to Beat Seasonal Affective Disorder. Joining a group of colleagues at the National Institutes of Mental Health, he began pioneering studies about this illness in the early 1980's.

What's interesting about Rosenthal is that he, too, suffered from a seasonal illness. When he left Johannesburg, South Africa for New York to attend medical school, he suddenly found that "the long summer days were a source of endless delight and the short, dark winter days brought a dreariness of spirit that was alien and mysterious." The treatment that Rosenthal and his colleagues offered was "light therapy."

In an article from 2002 0n his website, Rosenthal writes, "In the past few years pharmaceutical companies have joined in the effort to find new angles for treating and preventing SAD. This is an extremely welcome development because it highlights SAD as a condition worth studying and treating. In addition, many patients with SAD do not respond to light therapy alone, while others would benefit by having more treatment options.

"When we began our work over 20 years ago, many of our colleagues considered it strange and eccentric. It has been gratifying to see it enter the scientific and clinical mainstream, a realization made concrete this past year by an award from the Anna-Monika Foundation for depression research to Dr. Thomas A. Wehr and myself. An equally important acknowledgment comes in the form of the many reports from individuals who have benefited from having their SAD diagnosed and successfully treated.

"Despite the accomplishments of the field, we still do not understand the fundamental biological abnormalities in SAD or how light works. Perhaps the next decade of research will provide answers to these questions."

I'd be interested in knowing how many other people feel that their illness has a seasonal component. I know that Polly from polarcoaster has written about it and perhaps others as well. Tomorrow, I'll discuss a related issue: hibernation.


Anonymous said...

For years I tried to get help when I began feeling bad once the seasons changed. And everyone thought I was "crazy." I read an earlier version of Rosenthal's book and it saved my life. When my husband retired, we moved from Michigan to Palm Springs, CA. Realtors say, "Location. Location. Location." Psychiatrists should be chanting the same mantra.


BamaGal said...

For years I lived in a state of pure mania---but from Oct-April---I was sick---physically so---tons of colds, tired all the time---stayed at the doc's office. I now know that was depression. That is why I was 40 yrs old before I was ever diagnosed. Well there was a lot more to it than that, but that's how it was. When you're manic---you feel great---I've always liked those episodes..
The older I get, especially since I'm in peri-menopause---the more depressive episodes I have. I've been on light therapy nearly 7 yrs now. Only have to have it in the winter time-----but didn't need it so much this past year because our winter was so mild.
I do make it a point to get outside everyday. I've also lightened up my house. My sister said I used to live in a cave. That helped alot too.

Anna said...

I have worked for a website about SAD/light therapy (Lumie) for a few months now and was surprised about how many people suffer from it and how severe some of the symptoms can be. I think that light therapy is definitely the best treatment for SAD, anti-depressants seem a little inappropriate given that it is something as simple as the sun that causes the depression.

B said...

Is it important to use the light box at a specific time each morning or just sometime in the morning? I found some good advice here too: but I think I need a light box...

Bipolar Wellness Writer said...

Dear B,
You'll have to look at the lightbox pages to find out the information you seek. The lightbox didn't work for me and as I remember, I tried it a lot of different ways.

Best of luck!