Seasonal Effective Disorder

What is Seasonal Effective Disorder? Why did I get it?

Seasonal Effective Disorder is depression that occurs in the winter months. It usually begins around October when the days begin to get shorter and usually subsides around the end of February or March when the days begin to get longer. The diagnosis is made when this pattern of depression occurs over a period of 3 years when there is no other known cause for the depression such as a loss of a loved one or physical illness.

The cause of the depression is actually simple. Apparently our bodies need the light produced by the sun for proper hormonal and chemical balance. When our bodies don't get this light then some of us develop this depression. Unfortunately I am one of those people whose body need the sun light.

Three years ago my office was moved from a classroom with big windows to what I considered a storage closet (which is what it was used for before). The room did clean up well and I did get it looking presentable. However the room had no windows. I had moved during the summer and did fine until the end of October when I noticed a depression coming on which I contributed to BC pills which can cause depression. I basically suffered and quite the pills for awhile. I began feeling better by the end of February and no longer felt depressed by the spring. This happened again the following year but I don't recall it being as much of a problem as the year before but did have some bad days. I almost went home one day due to the depression but one of my kids gave me a Christmas present which really touched me and kept me there the rest of the day. By the end of March or April I noticed the depression was gone and then got suspicious if what I had was seasonal effective disorder (SAD) since my office had no windows and I have always been exposed to the sun during the day in all my previous jobs and schooling.

When it occured this year (I had switched jobs but also had an inside office with no windows) I quickly concluded that is what I have. I may get down from time to time in the past but never experienced anything like this without any cause. There is no incident or emotional stress or trauma which causes SAD. Emotional stress can cause depression but it's different from SAD. With depression caused by emotional stress (reactive depression) your thoughts drell on the stressor but with SAD there is no specific stress causing the depressive feelings. Everything can be going great but the serotonin level is just depleted apparently from the lack of sunlight.

The symptoms I experienced include:
loss of interest
lack of motivation
emotionally sensitive
increased sleepiness
occasional sleep problems
decreased endurance

I also experienced some symptoms which I don't remember having in the years past but did this year. These may be related to a virus but also may be related to SAD because they did decrease with an increase of medication for SAD.

various minor body aches
some exhaustion with exhersion
weakness in legs (I think this may be due to the virus)
decreased immune system (I got a cold)
decreased concentration (a little not significant)

How is SAD treated? The best thing is getting out in the sun but if this is not possible every day you can try any of the full spectrum lights that are available at many local hardware store. Medical professionals do not agree on the specifics of how to use the light. I use mine when I'm on the computer at night. I find it helps some but doesn't cure the problem. Another thing you may need is to treat the depression with antidepressants during the winter months and apparently the dosage has to be adjusted to the severity of the depression and readjusted through out the winter months as the days get shorter and then decreased as the days get longer and the body starts to get more sunlight.

Why do some people get it and not others? Good question. I'm not sure but it may be due to genetic makeup, age or other unknown factors. It can be treated and kept under control. The good news is that it is short lived. The bad news is that it comes back each year. However since I know it's there I do plan to treat it early so I won't have to suffer the depression next year. As I always say "It's depressing to be depressed".