Seasonal Affective Disorder

barrow-alaskaYes, S.A.D.  Before you start thinking I’m making this up, it seems to be a bona fide medical disorder.  According to the Mayo Clinic, the condition begins and ends pretty much the same time every year, onset in the fall and goes well into the winter months.  This subset of major depression is so called because it’s seasonal.  Here are the symptoms, again directly from the pages of the Mayo Clinic:  “Symptoms specific to winter-onset SAD, sometimes called winter depression, may include:

  • Irritability,
  • Tiredness or low energy
  • Problems getting along with other people
  • Hypersensitivity to rejection
  • Heavy, ‘leaden’ feeling in the arms or legs
  • Oversleeping
  • Appetite changes, especially a craving for foods high in carbohydrates
  • Weight gain”

Now, wait just a minute.  I have every one of these symptoms; in fact, I had an ice cream sandwich for breakfast.  Hey, it just sounded good.

And the prescribed treatment for this condition, twenty minutes twice a day in front of a light box.  So I immediately saw dollar signs, and started thinking up designs for light boxes in my head.

I saw myself in front of the sharks on “Shark Tank,” pitching my idea as a cure for SAD, asking for $150,000 for 8% of my new company, “SAD Bright.”  Maybe I can make an APP that is just a bright light, maybe soothing music, or even a bright video game.  I guess it has to be a bright light, so sitting in front of gigantic computer monitor for 20 minutes, twice a day, won’t work?  No, I didn’t see myself getting a deal with the sharks.  The daydream ends with me hearing Kevin say “You’re dead to me,” and walking away into the hallway where the camera records me shaking my head saying “They just didn’t get it.  This is a serious disease.”

Let’s look at the risk factors associated with this winter-onset, seasonal affective disorder:  Being female is one.  SAD is diagnosed in women more, but men have more-severe symptoms.  Younger people have a higher risk for winter SAD.  And, yes, it’s hereditary.  People with SAD are more likely to have family members that have it.

I remember watching an episode of “Northern Exposure,” one of my favorite shows in the 90s, where everybody walked around with headlamps during the dark winter months.  Bright lights, phototherapy.  In Barrow, Alaska the sun sets in November and doesn’t come up again for 65 days.  That would make me SAD.  I’m no longer a night person.  And yes, SAD is more prevalent in people who live far north or south of the equator.

So this got me thinking, are they’re more extramarital affairs, hanky-panky, goings-on, in the winter, because people are SAD?  Evidently not.  From the extensive research I conducted, (okay, I only checked the Zurin Institute website) it doesn’t seem to matter what time of year it is.  According to statistics, one in every 2.7 couples will be somehow affected by infidelity. 

Then that train of thought brought me to questioning birth rates?  Are more babies born in the Summer?  Yes.  In fact, from 1990 to 2006, more babies were born in August, with the exception of six years where July was the slim title-holder.  Counting back nine months we get November, December, exactly when the sun goes down in Barrow, Alaska, and people around the world start getting SAD.  Coincidence…of course it is, but I’ll bet I can make a case that during the winter months in most of the world, we hang out indoors more than we do outside.  The temperature drop outside, leads to things heating up indoors, thus more births occur in the summer.  And if I wanted to stretch the statistics further, I could come up with a correlation between winter-onset SAD and extramarital affairs. 

But there are two things I know for sure:  I’m not anywhere close to being a behavioral scientist, and light boxes won’t get a deal on “Shark Tank.”   



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3 responses to “Seasonal Affective Disorder

  1. Then there’s people like me, Len, who have SAD in reverse. I get irritable and all those other symptoms (maybe not the weight gain) when it’s too sunny too many days in a row. I find the brightness over stimulating and it’s makes me edgy. Go figure! No light boxes for me! 😉

    • Sounds like you suffer from summer-onset SAD. There appears to be such a thing. Maybe your treatment is to sit in a dark room for 20 minutes twice a day. You live in a place now where sunny days in a row probably won’t be a big problem. :o)

      • I need to sit in a dark room for hours, not minutes! And, you what, I’ve seen a lot of sun since living near Portland. People around here are elated. Me, not so much!

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