It's only natural to feel a bit low in the winter, when days are cold, dark
and dreary, but some people react very badly to the change of weather and
develop Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).
Sufferers have to endure most of the following symptoms:
- They oversleep but are not
left feeling refreshed, cannot get out of bed and need a nap in the afternoon
- Sufferers tend to crave carbohydrates,
which can lead to weigh problems.
- Experience feelings of despair,
misery, guilt, anxiety and normal tasks become frustratingly difficult.
- They avoid company and
have irritability, loss of libido and lethargy.
- Many suffer from joint
pain or stomach problems and lowered resistance to infection.
The symptoms tend to start from around September each year, lasting until
April but are at their worst in the darkest months.
The standard figure says that around 2% of people in Northern Europe suffer
badly, with 10% putting up with milder symptoms. Across the world the incidence
increases with distance from the equator, but it is less common where there
is snow on the ground. More women than men are diagnosed as having SAD.
The problem stems from the lack of bright light in winter. Researchers have
proven that bright light makes a difference to the brain chemistry.
The disorder can be combated by using a light box or bright light therapy
device. Going to a bright, sunny climate, whether skiing or somewhere hot,
can also be a cure. The preferred level of light is about as bright as a
spring morning on a clear day and for most people sitting in front of a
light box, for between 25 and 45 minutes a day is sufficient to alleviate
the symptoms. The user does not have to stare at the light, but can watch
TV or read, just allowing the light to reach the eyes.
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