In the psychiatric manuals, seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, is one category. The real world, however, is much more complex. And so are the people who suffer with seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Among them, some are predisposed to achieve better relief from the lamps than others. Are you one of them?
SAD is a complex result of being predisposed to depression as well as to sensitivity to lack of light. Therefore, every single person suffering with SAD has a slightly different mix of causes and triggers behind the fall or winter blues. Of course, all people with SAD share some features, so theoretically, the lamps should offer some relief to everyone. However, there is still a group of those who are more prone to get less from the light than others.
There are several symptoms that can help to predict the response:
Do you feel blue in the morning or the evening?
- Evening lows in mood and energy are much more common in those with winter depression and suggest a large effect of bright light therapy. In the study, 27 people with evening blues improved “much” or “very much”, compared to only 2 who did not.
- In those whose mornings are worse than their evenings, on the other hand, are more common in other types of depression and predict lower response to bright light: 30 people from the study improved “much” or “very much”, but 11 did not.
Do you tend to overeat or suffer from loss of appetite?
- Overeating, weight gain, and excessive food cravings are common in winter depression. These habits tend to predict a positive result of light therapy. When combined, their positive prognosis is even higher than that of the evening pattern.
- Loss of appetite has the opposite effect and may indicate less seasonal causes of the problems and predicts a lower response rate. However, in the study, 15 out of 21 people with the negative prediction still achieved the “much” or “very much” improvement rating.
Do you tend to sleep too little or too much?
- Those who sleep too much tend to benefit more from the lamps than those sleeping too little. Hypersomnia is a good sign for lamp efficiency – and insomnia a bad one. However, the two may be interconnected and a variety of research proves that lamps are efficient for insomnia on its own. However, if we only talk about sleep in terms of symptoms of depression, the lamps are less likely to be effective.
Do you suffer with more severe psychiatric symptoms?
- Depersonalizations, thoughts of suicide, or severe anxieties are again predicting an issue the likes of which a lamp alone can’t manage. While lamps may still help to a degree, they should be used in addition to a standard treatment recommended by a clinical psychologist or psychiatrist rather than instead of such treatment.