Home Clinical Psychology & Psychotherapy What Is Seasonal Affective Disorder and How to Deal With It

What Is Seasonal Affective Disorder and How to Deal With It

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Sunrise and sunset used to do the job, but owing to the vicissitudes brought by modern life, these rhythms are disrupted which can lead to health problems, including sleeping disorders, and can affect our mood and general well-being.

Exposure to light can cause our biological clock to advance or delay, which affects our sleep and wake cycle. We need strong regular light signals to have our circadian rhythms on track.

As we know, light is the most essential factor which controls our internal body clock. However, some people’s well-being gets compromised when they don’t get sufficient light. This is know as seasonal affective disorder. 

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that comes and goes with the seasons, typically starting in the late fall and early winter and going away during the spring and summer.

Depressive episodes linked to the summer can occur, but are much less common than winter episodes of SAD. This disorder is a serious matter that needs to be addressed. In fact, with the World Health Organization characterised depression as the ‘disease of the century’

Dr Norman Rosenthal is a South African author, psychiatrist and scientist who in the 1980s first described winter depression or SAD, and pioneered the use of light therapy for its treatment. 

On 22nd September 2017, I attended the seminar, Beat Winter Depression With Dr Norman Rosenthal held in London, and I had the opportunity to interview Dr Rosenthal to talk about SAD and light therapy.

The event was sponsored by Cambridge-based light therapy specialist Lumie. Since 1991 Lumie has been researching and designing bright lights to treat seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and other conditions.

According to an ICM Online Omnibus Survey conducted for Lumie in 2007/8 in which 2,000 people in the UK were polled, up to 24% of us feel the onset of winter blues by September, when the days are getting shorter at the fastest rate in the year, and don’t feel back to normal until April. Of that 24%, around 7% of Northern Europeans are so badly affected by SAD that they struggle to function normally.

Dennis Relojo-Howell is the founder of Psychreg. He writes for the American Psychological Association and has a weekly column for Free Malaysia Today. 

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