I Vote for Tahiti

Greetings. Now that I have wandered around in prehistory for a while I guess I should get back on track. I did enjoy the wandering, though. I always liked anthropology. Too bad there are so few paying jobs in the field.

On track….Lin wanted me to talk about Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and the holiday blues. SAD first.

SAD is an odd form of depression. As I said before, it probably has some deep roots in the species. It probably is endogenous (from the inside) rather than exogenous (happening as a result of something outside) in its causes.

Except for the season and/or the geography, you cannot point to something – an event – and say that is why you are depressed. No blaming SAD on your boss or your mother-in-law.

SAD occurs more often the farther you get from the equator. It happens more during the dark of winter. It is thought all that darkness messes with your biological clocks. They are still trying to figure out what actually goes on. However, the results of whatever it is include difficulty waking, decreased energy and lethargy, carbohydrate craving, weight gain, difficulty concentrating, decreased libido, withdrawal, depression, anxiety and irritability. Lovely.

Since SAD spontaneously goes away in the summer the thought became to either take the sufferer to the sun (I vote for Tahiti!?) or to bring the sun to her. Enter light therapy. (Apparently we can’t afford Tahiti. Dang.)

Light therapy works. It reduces depression, fatigue, sleepiness and all sorts of other things. Ready for the but? Light therapy is contraindicated for those with retinal disease. That is us. [Lin/Linda here: The problem with light therapy where you sit in front of a ‘light box’ with a bulb that simulates daylight is that it does contain blue light.  The topic of blue light & retina damage is controversial but why tempt fate? Click here for more information on this.]

Now what? Light therapy is pretty much out but there are other courses of action. Antidepressants have been found to be effective. However it normally takes several weeks for antidepressants to reach full effectiveness so you need to start taking them ahead of time. Psychotherapy has had successes. Ditto on the time lag for that, too.

Just to be on the safe side, if you are suffering from seasonal depression, or any depression, you should make sure everything else is in good working order. Thyroid problems can cause depression. Also low vitamin D is a culprit. Dr. Weil reported 70% of Americans are D deficient. Apparently nobody but me is drinking her milk!

Other sources such as Living Well With Low Vision suggest the judicious use of melatonin not only in supplement form but also by regulating its natural flow. Blocking blue light for several hours before bed moves the production of melatonin up in time so it is not still being produced and making you groggy and cranky in the morning.

I would think if you don’t have lenses that block the blue you could get similar results by nixing the screen and listening to BARD books in a dark room, but I have nothing to prove that hypothesis.

Then there are the really ‘radical’ depression fighters like getting up and taking a morning walk! Not only do you get the morning sun but somewhere I read 40% of all depressions respond to exercise. There are studies being done that suggest a rise in body temperature improves mood. I admit to being both a nature freak and an exercise nut, but my positions are being endorsed more and more by science.

That’s SAD. What is SAD? Depression. That’s SAD.

Next, the holiday blues, as requested.

Next: The Holiday Blues

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