For those in the Mid-west area, the Chicago Sun-Times just did an article about Seasonal Affective Disorder.
Bright ideas to treat despair of Seasonal Affective Disorder
By Jean Guarino
Anyone who says the cheerful rays of the sun don’t have a positive effect on your disposition has obviously never muddled through a depressingly dark Chicago winter.
This is the season when most people leave for work and return home in the dark, temperatures plummet, heating bills soar and even the most optimistic individuals are prone to prolonged bouts of grumpiness.
As the amount of sunlight decreases and the days grow shorter, almost everyone suffers a certain amount of depression. But for millions of Americans, these darker winter days trigger the onset of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a clinical condition that affects their ability to work and results in depression.
Over the past 20 years, there have been numerous studies on the causes and treatment of Seasonal Affective Disorder. Clinicians and researchers now believe that SAD is a cyclical illness prevalent in the fall and winter months that is directly related to the amount of light that is absorbed through the eyes.
This winter depression is caused by a connection between the optic nerve and melatonin, a chemical in the brain. SAD is triggered when the brain releases too much of this chemical at the wrong time, specifically during short dark winter days when bright sunlight is at a premium.
For most people SAD is a mild condition that is generally referred to as the “winter blues.” But for others SAD is a seriously disabling illness that prevents them from functioning normally without continuous treatment.
Seasonal Affective Disorder occurs throughout the Northern and Southern hemispheres and is extremely rare in those living near the Equator where daylight hours are long and extremely bright.
In the United States, the disorder usually begins to affect people around the beginning of October when the sun sets around 6 p.m. But its effect becomes even more pronounced with the end of Daylight Savings Time when the summer ratio of prolonged sun to minimal darkness is reversed and people spend more time in darkness than they do in sunlight.