SAD Disorder

by AJ

SAD Disorder or, to give it the proper name Seasonal Affective Disorder, is a type of winter depression.

What is SAD Disorder?

Seasonal Affective Disorder

IciclesIt was in 1984 that Seasonal Affective Disorder was first formally described and named at the USA's National Institute of Mental Health by psychiatrist and scientist Norman E. Rosenthal and his colleagues.

In the USA it is estimated that the incidence of SAD in the adult population varies depending on climate. For example it is believed that 1.4% are affected in Florida, increasing to 9.7% in New Hampshire.

In the UK about 1 in 100 people suffer from SAD, which is roughly 2 million. Across Northern Europe, the figure is believed to be around 12 million but the figures are considerably less in Southern Europe - again the warmer climate is a significant factor.

I suffer from SAD during the winter months. My home office is west facing, so the sun does not come around to that part of the house until the afternoons, making it particularly gloomy in the winter.

So I use a SAD Light Box, which simulates daylight, to help me through the darker, sunless days.


Image: Icicles © AJ and Family at Zazzle

SAD Symptoms

The symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder can vary

SAD symptoms generally vary from person to person and are similar to those experienced in other forms of depression. However, it is likely that SAD sufferers will report that they have more energy and are a lot happier in the spring and summer.

Other symptoms can include: lethargy; a low mood for much of the day; eating and sleeping more than usual; craving carbohydrates, which can lead to weight gain; anxiety;irritability; mood swings; loss of libido.

SAD Light Box

My Light Box helps me cope with SAD in the winter months
NatureBright SunTouch Plus Light and Ion Therapy Lamp

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Uplift Technologies DL930 Day-Light 10,000 Lux SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) Lamp

Day-Lights are specially designed bright light therapy lamps recommended by doctors as the first line treatment for Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), or the winter blues. ...

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Verilux HappyLite Deluxe Sunshine Simulator

Although our lives, health and well-being are dependent upon the sun, most of us do not get enough sunshine every day. Bright light is used for alleviating symptoms associated ...


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Philips BriteLITE 6

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Caribbean Sun Box Light Therapy SAD Sunbox - Filters 100% of the UV rays

All of the Caribbean Sun Boxes work on all voltages world-wide with no voltage adapter needed The Caribbean Sun Box is small and fits on any desk or counter-top,yet delivers ...


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Treatment for SAD Disorder

SAD Help

Some SAD sufferers are treated with anti-depressants, but many people use self help methods to alleviate the effects of Seasonal Affective Disorder.

Out door exercise can help SAD, particularly when the sun is shining but also ensure your diet includes foods containing the B vitamins thiamin and niacin, folate, selenium and oily fish, which is a quality source of Omega-3 - often called "mood foods."

Other action you can take to help SAD is to decorate your home in light colours; postpone any energetic projects until the summer; try not to get stressed (or allow others to stress you!); learn relaxation techniques, such as Yoga and above all else remember to allow yourself some "ME Time".

However, I have found that what helps me the most is to use a Light Box. My home office, where I work for much of the day, is West facing so in the winter it can get quite gloomy.

Updated: 02/24/2014, AJ
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Do you suffer with SAD Disorder? How do you cope?

MaggiePowell on 06/26/2013

I hate the fall... just a horrible dread feeling when it gets dark earlier. Meds and keeping busy help... the light box looks like a great idea

AJ on 07/31/2011

I remember the time when the British Government experimented with the clocks and I was going to school in the mornings when it was dark - it was a big failure. The only people who were happy were those who manufactured the luminous strips we had sewn on our coats and school bags.

I do like travelling to France in the Summer where instead of moving the clocks one hour forward for Summer Time, they move on two - so it is still light at 10pm. Not sure Iwould like it so much of I had a young baby though :)

Prospero on 07/26/2011

I suffer from SAD-ness, but for years I put it down to "Winter Blues" and it was only about three years ago that my doctor recognised the condition.

I used to dread the winter months in the UK and the clocks going back an hour hardly helped. These days I just go off to sunnier climes, although I understand that is not an option for many.

I consider light boxes to be useful for those who work in an office or from home, but it was impractical for me because my job was not desk-bound. I remember suffering anxiously when driving around at about 4pm on a dark, dismal afternoon, to the extent that I became so disorientated, that even when I knew where I was going (home for example - and the road signs confirmed it), I still thought I was going in the wrong direction! The knuckles of my hand would turn white such was the grip I had on the steering wheel. It was then that I knew I needed to seek help. I was mighty pleased to learn that this was a recognised condition - I only wish I knew earlier - but being raised in the granite macho environment of industrial Newcastle, I pretended that I was made of tough stock and felt uneasy to talk about it. I suppose moving down to London softened me up sufficiently to address the issue.

For years I've been a great advocate for abolishing GMT and putting the clocks forward two hours in October instead of one back - but would that actually make a difference overall? And how would it balance out when Spring arrived? Anything that gives more daylight in the evenings has to be a good thing in my opinion - but I think the Scottish farmers won't agree with it. Dark mornings are not good for milking apparently (SAD cows are unhappy cows), and the kids would have to go to school in the dark - whereas they have to come home in the dark in the current situation. But then again that's an issue for changing school times - which really is long overdue. It's a puzzle for sure!

AJ on 07/01/2011

No, I do not, sorry :)

emeraldmile on 06/30/2011

Do you know if light boxes are used in treatments for conditions other than SAD? It would be an interesting alternative to meds.

Guest on 06/08/2011

I have seen these lights before but didn't know of anyone who actually used them. In my nursing career I saw a lot of people suffer with this disorder. Back then the way to treat them was with meds. I am glad to see that other treatment plans are working too.

AJ on 06/07/2011

Kylyssa, that is such a perceptive observation when you say "We all suffer from her SAD" and what you describe your poor friend as going through, is something that I suffer too from time to time. I guess self-loathing is a symptom of many types of depression.
But I am sure my SAD light helps me - I just have to remember to dose myself in the Winter mornings in order to get the benefit through the day. I am so pleased that your friend's lightbox seems to work for her :)

Kylyssa_Shay on 06/07/2011

My dear friend and roommate suffers from Seasonal Affective Disorder. I should say, we all suffer from her SAD, not because she's hard to be around when in its grip but because it hurts to see her perky, quirky, sunny disposition disappear as soon as the days begin to get shorter. It also makes me feel helpless when I see her so miserable. She gets downright mean to herself when affected by her SAD and she's such a lovely, wonderful person.

The good news is that late last winter, she finally got a SAD light therapy device. We call it her grow light. I played mom and made sure she used it. Light therapy really seems to make a big difference for her. I'll remind her to start using light therapy for her SAD disorder in the fall this year and maybe she can be her normal self all winter.

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