Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Help for Seasonal Affective Disorder/Winter Depression

Seasonal Affective Disorder/Winter Depression, also known as SAD, is very common in parts of the country that have cold, cloudy winters with little sunshine. The lack of exposure to regular amounts of healthy sunshine could trigger seasonal affective disorder (SAD).

Experts cited that this condition affects one out of every five Americans each winter. Rather than relying on drugs like Prozac or Zoloft to treat this condition, a new study revealed that a short half-hour session sitting next to a light-emitting box produces the most effective results in the treatment of SAD.

While 14 percent of Americans have reported experiencing mild cases of this condition, 6 percent to 7 percent stated they experience the most extreme symptoms of SAD, which could include:
_ Clinical depression
_ Overeating Excess sleep
_ Heightened sensitivity to pain
_ Social withdrawal
_ Significant weight gain (averaging nearly 40 pounds each season)

Researchers found that premenopausal women were more inclined to develop SAD symptoms over men due to the female hormones estrogen and progesterone.

The Positive Effects of Light Treatment
A study of 140 women that took place over five successive winters compared two different kinds of treatments for SAD: 30 minutes a day of exposure to light-emitting boxes and using room ionizers, which are thought to help SAD symptoms by increasing levels of negatively charged particles circulating in the air. Although the air ionizers showed some positive effects, the light boxes produced the most promising results.

Studies have shown that during the winter months, serotonin levels in the brain are lower than they are in the summer months. For this reason many doctors resort to prescribing SSRI's, which work by adjusting serotonin levels.

However, experts say that using light boxes are not only the safer alternative to treating this condition but also are much cheaper than prescription drugs in the long term. As a matter of fact, using a standard light box for a period of five years costs around $60 per year compared to a prescription for Prozac or other SSRI, which costs about $300 to $500 per year.

Another form of light box called "dawn stimulator" is attached to a bright light in the bedroom and works by causing the light to slowly increase in intensity during the early morning hours, similar to how it would on a spring day.

SAD experts agree that light boxes are the safe and most effective form of treatment for seasonal depression.
Forbes January 9, 2005

***It is important to note that while antidepressants are often the first line of treatment, there are safe alternatives to most types of depression. Discuss natural alternatives like light box therapy Deprex with your health care provider before using prescription medications with potentially serious and life-threatening side effects.

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