When you are young, winter brings tidings of joy, snowball fights, and Christmas lights. To a child, a blizzard means no school and Christmas means free gifts. To an adult, however, despite the song “it’s the most wonderful time of the year,” the winter and holiday season may be the worst time of year.
To a working adult, a blizzard means tardiness and Christmas means long lines with crazy parents. Additionally, the bleak weather and reduced sunlight can bring upon depression symptoms in the form of a disorder named Seasonal Affective Disorder.
Seasonal Affective Disorder is a condition that half a million people in the United States suffer from, many of which do so unknowingly. Symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder are similar to that of depression and can consist of anything from low energy, lack of interest, sleeplessness, and sadness. The lack of sunlight, at times darkening before people even get out of work, affects hormonal cycles — leading the condition to be physically driven, as well as mentally driven.
While Seasonal Affective Disorder can affect a large amount of people, their functionality is not greatly affected. Those suffering from the disorder can still make it out of bed and work, albeit with extra effort. Studies have found that instances of Seasonal Affective Disorder increase greatly as one travels north. Only 3 percent of Floridians suffered from the disorder while 11 percent of New Hampshire residents showed symptoms of the disorder.
One of the most popular treatments for Seasonal Affective Disorder is light therapy. Research has shown that light therapy can indeed be an effective treatment for the disorder. There are two types of light therapy: bright light therapy and dawn simulation. In bright light therapy, the patient sits in front of a light box for a set amount of time, usually done in the morning. In dawn simulation, a light is timed to go on at a certain time before the patient wakes up, gradually getting brighter. Light therapy can begin to work in as little as 3 to 5 days and may help by resetting your circadian rhythm, which controls sleeping and waking.
Physicians may also prescript antidepressants, which can treat general depression symptoms in people with Seasonal Affective Disorder. Antidepressants may be used in conjunction with light therapy as a comprehensive treatment for severe cases of Seasonal Affective Disorder. The downside of antidepressants are side effects that include: nausea, diarrhea, anxiety, sleeplessness, headaches, and loss of sexual desire.
With the proper treatment, Old Man Winter’s icy grasp around your neck can be broken. As such, the tough winter months can melt away as the snow does, leading those suffering from the disorder into spring bliss filled with sounds of birds chirping and the sight of flowers growing.