The Roots of SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) Essay

This essay has a total of 2116 words and 9 pages.

The Roots of SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder)

Growing up in Alaska certainly taught me how to live peacefully with the bear minimum in
life. Hauling water from a creek in the back of my house, using an outhouse in fifty below
zero weather, and above all, living for almost nine months with an extreme lack of
sunlight. When I lived in Alaska I treasured the beautiful yet short summer months that
seemed to come and go with such swiftness. The difference in weather and amount of
sunlight that I got to enjoy was just as drastic as my mood in the wintertime compared to
the summer. In the summer life seemed remarkably pleasurable, I was happier with my
appearance, and I worried much less about petty obstacles that I was confronted with.
Unlike in the wintertime when every little thing annoyed me, all I wanted to do was sleep
and eat, nothing really had importance, and I was in a constant state of anxiety.

These mood swings seemed characteristic of the change in seasons and it became such a
reoccurring experience that I simply learned to live with my seasonally mixed emotions.
Until at age fourteen I moved from Alaska to California, Arizona, and then finally to
Virginia, that during that time of travel I realized my moods were not as drastic compared
to the change in seasons. This was when I learned of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a
psychological disorder marked by the change in seasons. It

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seemed simple to me at first, yet when I learned more about the disorder and the people
who it affected, I began to believe that SAD was a disorder that had a greater influence
on a person who has a family history of depression and alcohol abuse. Which in my case my
family had both, in addition to living in an area where the sun really only comes out
three months out of the entire year. As a result I maintain the belief that SAD is a
psychological disorder that can be found in people with a family history of depression and
alcohol abuse when they are experiencing conditions of environmental isolation, rather
than a psychological disorder stemming mainly from a change in seasons.

The research that can be found about SAD is in some ways very limited because it is a very
recent diagnostic discovery. There really have only been studies conducted on people with
possible SAD since 1984 when a man named Norman E. Rosenthal actually defined the
psychological disorder (Lam). Since Rosenthal defined SAD as a syndrome characterized by
recurrent depressions that occur annually at the same time each year characterized by
hypersomnia, overeating, and carbohydrate craving (Newsome), there have been several
studies conducted and published on people with possible SAD. Many of the studies that have
been published for the general public focus mainly on the different forms of treatment for
SAD, such as light therapy and different forms of Phototherapy, rather than focusing on
the cause. Discovering the main causes of SAD would help to clearly identify who is
actually in need of treatment related to light therapy compared to anti depressants. In my
situation I had symptoms that were both characteristic of what identified SAD patients and
patients suffering from mild forms of depression. When symptoms of one disorder are so
closely related to symptoms of

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another type of disorder it is very important to identify a key differentiation, which I
believe could be found in a person's family history.

Understanding the universality of SAD symptoms is just as important, for example, there
have been reports of a sense of sadness, weight gain, loss and lethargy described by poets
and seen in cultures and religions through ceremonial festivities marked by the change
from summer to winter throughout the centuries (Watkins). Reports like these are still not
reason alone to conclude that the seasons affect a person's psychological well being
though. Some people love the winter months with the cold weather and decreased sunlight,
while others, who are the typical candidates for light therapy because of a simplified
diagnosis of SAD, thrive in the heat and pounding rays of sunlight. This difference with a
person's seasonal preference and change in mood demonstrates why the cause could be deeper
and rooted in the person's medical family history. It is also the reason why a deeper
analysis of symptoms and diagnosis needs to be in place when treating someone for SAD. In
my situation, I had seen several different doctors in order to find a cause or a cure for
my mood and appetite disorders. Doctors had a different diagnosis, even though I stated
the same symptoms to all of them.

The relative similarity between some of the many documented psychological disorders is a
reason why different case studies have been conducted. For example, a case-control study
conducted by JM Allen and others established that SAD patients demonstrated more atypical
symptoms of depression compared to nonseasonal patients, both having similar genetic
loading for mood disorders. In addition SAD patients were also determined to have family
psychiatric history in first-degree relatives, as well as

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being more likely to have alcoholism in their families (Lam). Thus signifying the
importance for investigating a person's family history before diagnosing them with the
typical SAD associated with deprivation of light. When a person is treated with light or
Phototherapy and their disorder stems deeper than lack of light no true cure and treatment
has been accomplished, witnessed, or documented (Lam).

Due to the number of people that have been misdiagnosed with SAD, several studies have
been conducted in order to determine if anti depressants have greater affects on curing
symptoms associated with SAD patients compared to the treatment of light therapy. As a
result case studies have suggested that such prescriptions as citaloprim, " a selective
serotonin reuptake inhibitor," where just as effective as light therapy (Wirz). This study
and reports that another prescription called Fluoxetine are shown to be just as effective
for SAD as compared to light therapy (Ruhrmann). Accordingly a question remains whether
inhibitors, which are used for patients dealing with depression, are more effective than
light therapy or if in combination they would work better than alone (Lam). A question
that could be answered by deep investigation of a patient's individual and family history,
which would show if depression is evident alone or along side feelings of deprivation of
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