There is Help for Holiday Depression and SAD Winter Blues

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Bright light therapy | The SunBox Company

It’s that time of year…

Feeling run down, tired, lethargic, not interested in seeing anyone or doing anything? It could be a case of the holiday blues. On the other hand, if it lasts more than a few weeks, chances are it isn’t the holiday blues, but a medical condition known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) or Winter Blues.

Holiday blues occurs when a person is lonely, without family or friends, or come from a dysfunctional family where the holidays have unpleasant associations. It typically lasts only as long as the holiday season itself. Anniversary reactions of losing a family member around the holidays can bring sadness.

“In the past years, I personally have lost 4 family members during the holiday season and that amplifies my sadness around the holidays” says, Neal Owens president of The SunBox Company. “The loss of my family can really compound the hardship of my SAD symptoms.”

Seasonal Affective Disorder, on the other hand, is a medical condition caused by a change in brain chemistry produced by the short daylight hours of winter. Symptoms include fatigue and energy loss, overeating, oversleeping, carbohydrate cravings and weight gain, withdrawal from friends and family, decreased sex drive, and, in severe cases, feelings of clinical depression. SAD occurs in higher incidence in the northern latitudes, where the days are shorter and darker.

SAD can be effectively treated through a number of therapeutic interventions. The recommended first-line treatment is light therapy, with specially constructed 10,000 lux light boxes that expose the user to light levels 10-20 times brighter than regular indoor lighting for brief periods – usually only 15-30 minutes – each day. SAD researchers also recommend exercise as a self-help intervention that may boost mood and energy levels. Finally, some people may require medication to combat their seasonal slump. New studies show that combining anti-depressants like Prozac and light therapy had the greatest improvement in patient depression scores. Light entering the eyes, signals the brain’s hypothalamus to boost serotonin levels and help fight depression.

Now is the time of year to use light therapy to lift your holiday spirits.


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