DUNMORE, LACKAWANNA COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) – When winter weather is less than ideal it’s easy to get a case of the blues. But sometimes that sense of depression called Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD for short is much more serious.
SAD brings months of emotional struggle caused by a lack of sunlight. As Eyewitness News Healthbeat Reporter Mark Hiller explains, it’s important to understand the signs and risk factors of SAD which could even include the color of your eyes.
“It can be very debilitating. Like all forms of depression, I think it’s really important that we pick up on it,” said Commonwealth Health Family Medicine Physician Marla Dempsey from her Dunmore office. She says up to ten percent of family care patients nationwide suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD which is a depression that interferes with your everyday life. “You’re not able to get out of bed in the morning sometimes. You’re overeating, undereating. Oversleeping or undersleeping those are the kind of things that we’re looking for,” she said.
While we all deal with limited daylight in fall and winter months, some of us are more susceptible to SAD than others. Case in point, women are considered four times more likely than men. Dr. Dempsey said, “I don’t know if that’s more because we’re more likely to talk about it so it gets diagnosed more. But they definitely say women.”
SAD may even run in your family according to Dr. Dempsey. “There’s also genetic factors. Some people just have lower levels of serotonin in their synapses and that puts them at higher risk.”
So does your eye color based on a recent study. It found the darker colored your eyes, the less sunlight goes into your brain. This interferes with melatonin production which can affect your sleep-wake cycles.
Regardless, one treatment option is light therapy. Doctors recommend using light boxes that produce the recommended 10,000 lux of white fluorescent light which simulates sunlight. Dr. Dempsey says if you use light therapy, do it in the morning or midday hours. “You can just do the 30 minutes of the light box some time on your lunch break. Bring it into work. That’s a great way to do it.”
Dr. Dempsey cautions against self-diagnosing your depression. For some people, light therapy may actually mask a greater problem. She urges anyone feeling prolonged depression to talk to your doctor and get the help you need.