Seasonal Affective Disorder:
According to the mayo-clinic, seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a level of depression that a person experiences during specific times of the year. Symptoms associated with seasonal affective disorder often surface during the fall months and continue through the winter months. Some people describe these depressive feelings as “winter blues”, but these feelings can be part of the disorder. SAD depression can significantly reduce a person’s motivation and energy and ultimately cause the person to feel moody and sad. Seasonal affective disorder is actually a subtype of major depression so the symptoms of the disorder tend to overlap symptoms associated with major depression. Having low energy, problems with sleeping, losing interest in activities once enjoyed and feeling hopeless, depressed and worthless can be associated with the disorder. Risk factors include being female, having a family history and or having a previous diagnosis of clinical depression or bipolar disorder. SAD etiology is not clear, but current models focus on neurotransmitters, hormones, circadian rhythm dysregulation as well as psychological factors. The various treatments for seasonal affective disorder include psychotherapy, medication and light therapy. Light therapy is considered by many as the best available treatment for seasonal affective disorder.
Seasonal Affective Disorder Prevalence:
SAD is said to occur annually in cases during certain seasons or during certain times of the year. Approximately 10 to 20 percent of recurrent depression cases follow a seasonal pattern according to the National Institute of Health.
Light Treatment for Seasonal Affective Disorder:
People with SAD can to be negatively affected by reduced daylight time during the winter months. Lack of sunlight contributes to cases of seasonal affective disorder and according to a study published in American Family Physician, the causes of SAD include changes to the body’s natural daily circadian rhythm, light sensitivity, and serotonin functioning.
Light therapy involves exposing the patient to more light daily than they would have received otherwise. Patients can receive this extra light via a “light box” during a small portion of their day. It should be noted thought that the FDA does not test, approve, or regulate light box devices.
LED Lights Treat SAD:
Recent research has revealed that LED lights can help to treat people suffering from seasonal affective disorder. Research has shown that the human circadian rhythm system is sensitive to short wavelength light. LED lights may enable a more convenient effective therapy for Seasonal Affective Disorder due to emission of short wavelength light waves. The National Institute of Health reports that a controlled trial of light emitting diodes (LEDs) is an effective treatment for SAD.