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Seasonal Affective Disorder: All You Need To Know About Winter Blues Therapies


Brian O & # 39; Connor says he has a feeling of fear in his stomach when he sees the signs of
Brian O'Connor says he has a feeling of fear in his stomach when he sees the "back to school" signs. Photo: Tony Gavin

A week ago, the clocks came back and while many people celebrated with a well deserved extra hour in bed, for another 60 minutes it was not enough.

For 7pc who suffer from seasonal affective disorder (SAD), this marks the beginning of what can be a long period of bad mood.

"As soon as you see the signs in the store for supplies back to school, you have that kind of fear in your stomach," says Brian O'Connor, manager of a company in his 40s.

"And once the time came back, you could have invited me to the Playboy Mansion and I'd rather stay there and roll up my socks."

The Mayo Clinic describes SAD as a type of depression related to the seasons, and most often beginning in late fall and early winter. Sufferers experience a number of debilitating symptoms.

They may have low energy, sleep more often, suffer from low self-esteem and gain weight, but they are often able to manage relationships, keep working, and maintain contact with the world around them.

"What happens is that you are not involved with the world around you in the same way. You do not want to answer the phone – you are cutting short calls, and ideas that may have flowed freely during the summer months do not reach as if you were going back to being a cave man.

"You just want to go home, light a fire and hibernate, stock up on carbohydrates and sugar like a squirrel makes nuts," says Brian.

The good news for people with SAD is contained in the name. It's seasonal. They know their mood will soar with the spring lamb. "That's also the bad news," says Martin Rogan, CEO of Mental Health Ireland, "because they know they have to deal with it for another year, so they look at changing seasons with a sense of fear."

"At worst, it looks like it's been dead for three months," says Liza Cox, 29, a theater parts maker whose move to Barcelona was partly inspired by her battle with the condition. "Then when spring rolls, I feel like coming back to life, or waking from a dream."

A doctor first suggested that Liza might have SAD when she was a child.

"When I was four or five years old, my mother was worried that I might have glandular fever – I was usually a very high energy child and a winter when I had just started school, I was so tired and floppy, not able to get out of bed in the morning, she took me to do blood tests. The tests went back well and the doctor told her that, in her opinion, it was SAD. "

It's something she wants more dialogue out there. "I had friends who, without knowing my experience, mocked her and called her" the worst middle-class affliction. "

"It's hard enough to deal with my own frustration with this, but trying to explain it to someone who is not prepared to accept it makes it difficult."

When at the theater school, Liza tried to tell her movement teacher about her condition. "He was really scornful and treated him like it was just me who did not want to work, which was very different from the case. I made myself very cautious about talking to anyone with any kind of professional ability."

At age 19, she moved to Paris and went through a very dark winter. "My parents bought me a SAD lamp for Christmas, and I think that's when I started using it and I realized the improvement that I realized was more than just in my life. head – there was a physical basis for it. "

Light therapy is the best known way to combat SAD. By using light boxes specifically designed to emit a fluorescent light, it helps decrease the duration of secretion of melatonin, a hormone that controls our sleep cycles and is often secreted at the wrong time of day in people suffering from SAD.

It is also believed to increase brain neurotransmitters, such as serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine, which regulate anxiety, happiness, and mood.

Brian set up, the company that imports the Finish SAD lamps, in 2007, three months after he himself was diagnosed. "The most popular lamp is the Rondo lamp, a small round lamp that you place on the arms length and can be played for 40 minutes in the morning while you read or work or watch TV. . "

For people who do not have that time, he recommends the Mesa Mega lamp, which will provide you enough light in a 20 minute blast to trick your mind into thinking it's bright and summertime, drawing you out of hibernation mode.

"When I'm using the SAD lamp, I try to use it for at least half an hour a day in the morning, preferably," says Liza. "I put it in when I'm writing or doing yoga.I really think it helps a lot – there's a kind of foggy feeling in the brain attached to SAD fatigue and it's really great to clarify that.I think I have a lot more energy when I'm using it consistently ".

It is not known as definitive what causes SAD. You may be genetically predisposed to this, there may be underlying psychological reasons, or it may be a biological response to our ever-changing world.

"For humans, our natural habitat is outdoors," says Rogan. "In the winter months, our natural tendency is to slow down, to enter a near-hibernation." But we live in an artificial environment and are forced to remain active. difficult for our body to deal with, since it is not nearly as strong, has a different temperature range and a different color from natural light. "

While SAD lamps are effective, it recommends spending time outdoors early in the day as it is much brighter than artificial light. "It will regulate melatonin and improve your sleep.If you are there, do some exercise, preferably aerobic – like jogging, jumping, biking, etc. It does not have to be strenuous, just stay outdoors for 20 minutes to half an hour.

"It can really be restorative, because it releases endorphins, which increases your sense of well-being, while increasing metabolism, which improves energy levels.

"And spend a little more time planning the months when you know you're going to be down. It's always good to have something to look forward to – one thing per week that raises your spirits. instead of back. "

More importantly, according to Rogan, do not self-diagnose. "If you have the symptoms of SAD, go to the doctor to make sure it is not anemia or low thyroid levels because if you persist, if your sleep pattern is greatly impaired, if your interests or appetite begin to disappear, you can being depressed as opposed to SAD. "

For Caroline Lenehan, a 33-year-old teacher, it looked like her body was trying to close every October. After being diagnosed with SAD by her doctor, she received antidepressants but instead took advice from a friend who was on the road before her, investing in a light therapy box and doing bursts of exercise.

"But the best piece of advice she gave me was" do not run away from it. "Yes, you're tired, accept that you need to rest and do not be afraid to tell people that."

Independent Irish

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