A Season of Depression
From the months of November to February, the days are shorter and colder,
and the nights longer and darker. When climate changes affect many
people, they just can't understand why they tend to feel gloomy and
miserable. Such mood disorder is known as winter depression, or Seasonal
Affective Disorder (SAD).
Don't be surprised when some of your friends seem to be grumpy or
irritable these past few days. We are now on the tail-end of the four-
month long winter season. From the months of November to February, the
days are shorter and colder, and the nights longer and darker. As the
climate changes, many people actually tend to feel gloomy and miserable.
Such mood disorder is known as winter depression, or Seasonal Affective
Based on statistics released by the SAD Association, 500,000 people in
the United Kingdom had experienced some form of winter depression, while
doctors have estimated that 20% of the population, or almost 2 million
people are affected by the disorder in Sweden.
Norman E. Rosenthal is the US doctor who coined the term SAD in 1984.
Winter depression has a sound medical basis that involves changes in the
body's mood centers brought on by shorter daylight hours and a lack of
sunlight. Most people suffering from this depressive illness experience a
sense of utter isolation and loneliness. The only consolation is the fact
that many people go through the same grumpiness during this time of the
year. It provides a sense of comfort and assurance that sufferers are not
Light therapy, one of the most effective and clinically proven treatments
for SAD, has been shown to benefit some 80-85 percent of SAD cases. It
may sound very simple but the process involves more than just turning on
a light and sitting beside it while twiddling your thumbs as you wait for
that renewed energy to power up your whole well-being.
The average domestic or office light emits a paltry 200-500 lux (a lux is
a unit of illuminance) whereas a minimum of 2,500 lux is required to
alleviate the symptoms of SAD. In comparison, a clear summer's day can
reach an intensity of 100,000 lux.
Using these measurements as basis, a number of specially designed light
boxes have been invented that emit precisely the right amount of
illumination. Symptoms of SAD gradually subside by sitting in front of
one for about 30 minutes to several hours, depending on the severity of
When it comes to treatment of SAD symptoms, light therapy could be the
best approach to consider. But to those with severe symptoms, addressing
the root causes of the condition may involve the use of both anti-
depressant drugs and psychotherapy treatments.
According to statistics, the incidence of SAD increases dramatically as
you go 30 degrees of latitude further north or south, while the condition
is virtually unheard of in the tropics. A movement or vacation trip to
countries near the equator may sound impractical but can definitely
improve ones mood and well-being.
When you watch movies that feature warm, sunny, summery climates, marked
improvements in mood are demonstrated. Any film with clear blue cloudless
skies, palm trees, and an absence of snow may qualify for a movie
Watching outdoor sports like cricket or golf may produce the same mood-
enhancing effect. On the contrary, overexposure to snooker, darts and
indoor bowling has been found to bring on a state of depression and
trance-like catatonia that, in severe cases, culminates in complete
mental health breakdown.