Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
is a disorder that is thought (by the experts) to be caused by Light Deprivation (lack of sunlight). SAD is typically characterized by feelings of lethargy, fatigue, cravings for certain types of foods (carbohydrates), excessive sleep, anxiety and sometimes other symptoms.

Although researchers aren't exactly sure how SAD occurs, they do know that the pineal gland (a tiny organ near the center of the brain) plays a vital role. The gland is controlled by light, which travels a complex pathway from the eyes to the brain, but reaches the pineal gland only if it (the light) is much more intense than ordinary room illumination.

In periods of darkness (or what is interpreted as darkness) the pineal gland produces melatonin, a hormone that shows "significant sedative properties". It is commonly believed that melatonin levels in SAD patients are either too high or irregular. This suggests that extra doses of bright light can cause the pineal gland to produce less melatonin thereby eliminating some of the symptoms of SAD. (Source: Woman's Day) (See illustration below)

Although SAD affects all types of people, women are most vulnerable, and the 20's through the 40's seem to be the prime ages for this problem. SAD runs in families and most patients have at least one close relative with a history of depression (often SAD). It is not known exactly why women are more vulnerable to SAD, but it is suspected that it is related to the cyclical secretion of the female sex hormones, estrogen and progesterone.

Most people with SAD eat more in the winter. They also report a change in their food preference from the salads, fruits and other light fare of summer to high-carbohydrate meals: breads, pastas, potatoes and sugary foods. Many report that eating carbohydrates actually makes them feel better and more energetic.

People with SAD are particularly susceptible to moving into dark places in the summer, even when the prospective home may seem adequately illuminated, and the memories of SAD may be far away. Many people clearly associate light deprivation rather than the season for their symptoms. One woman reports: "On gray or stormy days (no matter the season) I become very depressed. The longer the duration of this weather, the lower I feel. As soon as the sun appears, my mood drastically improves. I do not like a dark environment and will seek out bright areas. Dark rooms are oppressive to me".

People with SAD may suffer all sorts of physical problems during the winter months...from backaches, muscle aches and headaches...to different types of infections. Many people with SAD feel as though they suffer from the flu all winter long. (source: Winter Blues, by Dr. Norman Rosenthal, MD)

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