The Life Doctor

A CRUCIAL question will be on the lips of many a hypochondriac after yet another week of British winter: do I really suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder, or am I just a moany old git? Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a clinically diagnosed disorder that severely affects a small minority of people. Yet it has become something which, like wheat allergies and sensitive skin, everyone thinks they have.

Steve Hayes, director of Outside In, the body clock company, says, "An EU-funded project looking at outcomes of depression in different areas interviewed 3,000 people. It found that 1.8 per cent of people met the strict clinical criteria for SAD; a further 7 to 8 per cent met less stringent criteria."

So you probably haven't got it, but you may be on the continuum. Experts draw this continuum extending from the people who become suicidal with lack of light, all the way down to those who feel a bit gloomy when it's grey again.

SAD has a chemical basis. Dr Ann Macaskill, health psychologist at Sheffield Hallam University, who has done work on SAD, explains: "The most likely hypothesis is that it is a chemical imbalance caused by lack of light. Natural light stimulates the pineal gland to secrete a natural endorphin." Some people are more affected than others.

Tests have shown that it is nothing to do with warmth. A skiing holiday is just as good as a holiday in the Bahamas for solving the problem. Possibly even more so, because the level of light may be be intensified by reflective effect of the snow.

The problem with SAD, however, is that many of the symptoms are similar to normal depression and to "I'm-run-down-because-of-the-cold-weather- and-no-holiday-lurgies" (that's the technical term) and even to what Shirley MacLaine in Steel Magnolias called "being in a very bad mood for 40 years".

SAD people...

1. Start feeling a sinking feeling when the days draw in and feel better come the spring. Well, almost everyone I know feels like this, except one old friend who liked winter because she could wear thick jumpers that entirely disguised her body fat.

2. Still feel tired after a long sleep. Yes, I do.

3. Have flu symptoms: aching limbs, etc, without the head cold - yep, certainly.

4. Have cravings for carbohydrates - well yes, but then I have them all year round.

5. Are known for leaving the lights on. Me again, but I'm also known for being an appalling mess. Am I SAD or just sad? You begin to understand the complications.

The most successful treatment is daily exposure to a light box, so it's a good means of sorting out the real sufferers from the grumps. The Journal of The American Medical Association said that "light therapy is one of the most successful and practical results of basic research in biomedical rhythms".

Light boxes flood the back of your eyes with simulated daytime, outdoor- strength light. The sufferer sits in front of them for between 30 minutes and two hours depending on the bulb's strength. This artificially stimulates the underactive pineal gland and you feel jolly again.

Handily, Outside In does a three-week "satisfaction or return" offer with their light boxes. After getting your light box, your question will be answered. SAD sufferers should start feeling better by the end of a week. If you don't feel better, I'm afraid you are a moany old git. In either case, follow the instructions below.

Advice for all:

1. SAD sufferers: contact Outside In, tel: 01954 211 955. Light boxes start from pounds 100.

2. Moany old gits: when feeling lethargic, force yourself to do things. Get outside. See friends and have a jolly old time. Give yourself little treats. Take brisk walks.

Sport
England's women celebrate after their 3rd place play-off win against Germany
Women's World CupFara Williams converts penalty to secure victory and bronze medals
Arts and Entertainment
Ricardo by Edward Sutcliffe, 2014
artPortraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb go on display
News
newsHillary Clinton comments on viral Humans of New York photo of gay teenager
Arts and Entertainment
The gang rape scene in the Royal Opera’s production of Gioachino Rossini’s Guillaume Tell has caused huge controversy
music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Spanish Speaking

    £17000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - German Speaking

    £17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Japanese Speaking

    £17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you are fluent in Japanese a...

    Recruitment Genius: Graphic Designer - Immediate Start

    £16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

    Day In a Page

    The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

    Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

    Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
    Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

    'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

    Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
    Compton Cricket Club

    Compton Cricket Club

    Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
    London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

    Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

    'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
    The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

    The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

    It helps a winner keep on winning
    Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

    Is this the future of flying?

    Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
    Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

    Isis are barbarians

    but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
    The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

    Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

    Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
    Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

    'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

    Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
    Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

    Call of the wild

    How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
    Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

    'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

    If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
    The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

    The science of swearing

    What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
    Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

    Africa on the menu

    Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
    Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

    Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

    The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'