Monday, December 24, 2007

Lightboxes & winter depression (seasonal affect disorder)

This is the kind of post that I don't do much, but in case it helps anyone...

Some time ago I figured out that I had a healthy case of the winter blues. (It's officially called seasonal affect disorder, but I figure that I already have enough disorders). Basically it's seasonal depression. The DSM-IV defines it as having the following symptoms:

"(1) Depressed mood (or alternatively can be irritable mood in children and adolescents).
(2) Markedly diminished interest or pleasure in all, or almost all, activities.
(3) Significant weight loss when not dieting or weight gain or decrease or increase in appetite.
(4) Insomnia or hypersomnia.
(5) Psychomotor agitation or retardation.
(6) Fatigue or loss of energy.
(7) Feelings of worthlessness or excessive or inappropriate guilt.
(8) Diminished ability to think or concentrate, or indecisiveness.
(9) Recurrent thoughts of death (not just fear of dying), recurrent suicidal ideation without a specific plan, or a suicide attempt or a specific plan for committing suicide."

While I don't have every one, I have enough of them in enough intensity that it can be a real problem. (And I don't have the weight-loss one, darn it).

Several years ago, in a episode of good judgement, I bought a lightbox for dealing with it. Think very bright, full-spectrum light. It works well, and I use it in the mornings from mid-November to February. I just sit at my desk, reading or writing for 30 minutes with it on.

Well, last week I talked to a neighbor who was having a really tough time in what sounded like classic winter depression, so I loaned her the light box for a week. I was astounded by how going off it negatively affected me. There's no need to go into details, but lets just say the wheels came off the bus.

So, if this is an issue for you, I sure recommend trying a light box. I got a powerful one (Cadillac of lightboxes?), but there's a lot of them out there + lots of sites on the web that discuss them.


S.S.STONE said...

Christmas blessings to you and your family Brad and may the "Light" always shine on you.

Brad Wright said...

Thank you Sarah!

Ben said...

I join the chorus of those who, having wrestled with a different type of depression, are thankful for the gifts of modern technology. How did people in the past cope? Thank you for this real-life post!

Of course, this may mean that you should move to a place like winter-less Kenya ;-). (We just passed seven giraffes and herds of zebra a couple of miles from the house.) We could sure use a good sociologist like you; though we'd miss your beautiful winter photography.

I suppose your brother would make a case for hangliding in sunny California.

Many blessings to you and your family in this New Year!