As the days grow shorter in autumn, or longer in spring, many of us feel a bit down, or get the blues. This is a normal feeling for millions of Americans. It is a form of depression, called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) brought on by a change in brain chemistry as the system is adjusting to less light. SAD starts in September, sometimes peaking in winter from December to February, or stabilising in some cases. With April and spring when there is a rapid change in daylight there is another adjustment, and another period of blues may set in. These periods can vary from a seasonal drop of normal levels of energy and enthusiasm to the full-blown syndrome. Setting the clock back in October doesn't help.
As with most depressions, there is no simple explanation as to cause, or universal cure. Mainly it is ascribed to a biochemical imbalance in the hypothalamus due to the shortening of daylight hours and the lack of sunlight in winter. People affected by SAD show a range of symptom severity, from incapacitating to merely the winter blues, and respond to different treatments. One effective treatment is light therapy, where the sufferer spends time in front of a special light (2500 - 10,000 lux), this artificially compensates for the lack of sunlight.
Seasonal affective disorder therapy vary from the standard dolling out antidepressant drugs, through Cognitive Therapy, to light therapy, negative ionized air and Melatonin. The reason there are a number of treatments is that not all treatments work for everyone. For example, those who respond to light treatment praise the simplicity and natural healing, while others find the bright light unpleasant.
This form of depression is found mostly in northerly areas, such as Alaska, Canada, Scandinavia and very likely Siberia. Historically the first mention of Seasonal Affective Disorder or syndrome, was by Jordanes a 6th century Italian Bishop and Historian who mentioned the mood of the some people in Scandinavia during winter. In more recent times, in the 1980s, the South African psychiatrist Norman E. Rosenthal, after moving from sunny South Africa to north-eastern United States, noticed he had more energy in the summer than in winter. In 1984 he published his initial work on Seasonal Affective Disorder and light therapy.
Melatonin is another therapy. It is used to readjust the body's clock in a natural way, resetting the circadian rhythms. Taking melatonin in the afternoon affects the body to naturally adjust the daily sleep wake cycle. Melatonin is a natural chemical produced by the body.
Depressions are complicated and every person is unique in regard to their metabolism and response to stimuli. Emotional disturbances are real, and responses should not be in the “get a grip of yourself” category. There is an intricate interrelationship between thought processes and brain and body responses. This is clearly demonstrated by both psychopharmacology and Cognitive Therapy.
Depression is a complex subject. This is the main reason science has still not understood the mechanism for depression. There are a number of different types of depressions which very likely have different causes. Sufferers can have a range of psychological, social and physical feelings.