Seasonal Affective Disorder, the other SAD

We all know that SAD is short for standard America diet, but it also refers to Seasonal Affective Disorder. Never heard of it? Here’s how Wikipedia defines it:
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD), also known as winter depression, is an affective, or mood, disorder. Most SAD sufferers experience normal mental health throughout most of the year, but experience depressive symptoms in the winter or summer.
It might sound silly. Getting the blues because it’s dark outside, but Seasonal Affective Disorder is very much a part of the animal kingdom, and that includes humans. Richard A. Friedman, MD of The New York Times investigates:
Once regarded skeptically by the experts, seasonal affective disorder, SAD for short, is now well established. Epidemiological studies estimate that its prevalence in the adult population ranges from 1.4 percent (Florida) to 9.7 percent (New Hampshire).

Researchers have noted a similarity between SAD symptoms and seasonal changes in other mammals, particularly those that sensibly pass the dark winter hibernating in a warm hole. Animals have brain circuits that sense day length and control the timing of seasonal behavior…

…A major biological signal tracking seasonal sunlight changes is melatonin, a brain chemical turned on by darkness and off by light. Dr. Wehr and Dr. Rosenthal found that the patients with seasonal depression had a longer duration of nocturnal melatonin secretion in the winter than in the summer, just as with other mammals with seasonal behavior.
Dr. Fuhrman understands the challenge SAD can present. That’s why he recommends people use therapy lights. He sells them at Here’s why:
This Therapeutic Light contains the features that medical literature demonstrates are critical to the effectiveness of light therapy for Major Depressive Disorder, Dysthymia, Bipolar Depression, Seasonal Depressive Disorder, PMS, Insomnia, ADHD, ADD, and Bulimia Nervosa. Studies show that light therapy may also be helpful in Fibromyalgia and Post-partum Depression as well. It is recommended by the non–profit Center for Environmental Therapeutics (CET), and used exclusively in a new light therapy clinical program at Columbia University’s Presbyterian Hospital. In 2005 a meta–analysis of all randomized, controlled trials of light therapy found dawn stimulation with a bright light to be as effective for major depression as medications. Also, the results occur much more rapidly than drugs, with results noted in as little as one week.
In fact, Dr. Fuhrman will tell you firsthand. There are a lot of natural—non-pharmaceutical—therapies for depression. From Treating Depression Naturally:
With over a million prescriptions for antidepressants being filled each week and annual sales of 11 billion dollars at stake, it is unlikely that a new protocol for depressed people will emerge in America. Money usually dictates direction in the medical/drug/insurance industry. However, the conflict and controversy over the dangers of psychotropic medications used for depression, and the recent cardiac-related deaths from Ritalin prescribed for ADHD, are calling attention to the all-too-cozy relationship between government agencies and the drug industry. The public no longer can trust the validity of drug-related information that comes from even such formerly respected sources as medical journals and universities. These institutions depend increasingly on pharmaceutical dollars (advertising and grant monies), and this has led to numerous instances of inaccurate reports that conceal evidence and promote drug use…

… Natural therapies are surprisingly effective. Recent advances in non-pharmacologic treatments for depression can help people feel better—and even assist them in making total recovery—without dependence on medications. Researchers doing the studies in this field have been surprised to find that natural therapies can have very high success rates, rivaling those of drugs. Of particular interest is the fact that these non-pharmacologic treatments get results faster than drug treatments. Now is the time for all people with depression to give these safe, natural treatments a try. By combining the most promising facets of these approaches, the likelihood of improvement and recovery is greatly enhanced.
On a personal note, when I was a big fat load I loved the winter—a welcomed break from all the sweating—but now, I hate it! In fact, this fall was the first time I experienced some Seasonal Affective Disorder, so, despite the artic temperatures lately, I make sure I get plenty of sun.
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Michael - December 19, 2007 11:58 AM

I used to live in Syracuse and I definitely felt more depressed in the winter months. The past year has been much better. Eating lots of fruits, vegetables and healthy fats (nuts, seeds, avocado) combined with exercise in sunshine most days, the depression and lack of energy I used to consantly suffer from is much relieved. I think a lot of mild depression could be relieved or eliminated if diet, lifestyle and counseling were used. I took Effexor for about 6 months at one time, but the results were nothing compared to the chages I've made in my lifestyle.

LLouise - December 19, 2007 5:03 PM

Gerr, I totally get your take on your new attitude. I used to hate summer! (Yes, even some California girls can hate the summer.) It goes to feeling so good about yourself. For you, (and you were NOT a "big fat load") your new-found health spurred you on, for sure. I never really lacked too much self esteem but as a child, I was not confident in sports. Who'da thunk I'd be the distance running, martial arts practicing, cycling, aerobics, etc., etc., queen. Getting fit, alone, pre-Eat To Live gave me so much brighter an outlook. Now...combine that with eating the greatest diet ever, I'm a happy fool ;^D The good fats, rich with brain-nourishing nutrients, all the leafy greens and rainbow-colored dishes...So much nutrition HAS to affect one's entire self. I love Eating to Live!

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