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.

Voices
There will be a chance to bid for a rare example of the SAS Diary, collated by a former member of the regiment in the aftermath of World War II but only published – in a limited run of just 5,000 – in 2011
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm today
News
people
News
Elton John and David Furnish exchange marriage vows
peopleSinger posts pictures of nuptials throughout the day
News
File: James Woods attends the 52nd New York Film Festival at Walter Reade Theater on September 27, 2014
peopleActor was tweeting in wake of NYPD police shooting
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Sport
Martin Skrtel heads in the dramatic equaliser
SPORTLiverpool vs Arsenal match report: Bandaged Martin Skrtel heads home in the 97th-minute
News
Billie Whitelaw was best known for her close collaboration with playwright Samuel Beckett, here performing in a Beckett Trilogy at The Riverside Studios, Hammersmith
people'Omen' star was best known for stage work with Samuel Beckett
Arts and Entertainment
Mark Wright has won The Apprentice 2014
tvThe Apprentice 2014 final
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Darrell Banks’s ‘Open The Door To Your Heart’
music
News
Detective Tam Bui works for the Toronto Police force
news
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

    SThree: TRAINEE RECRUITMENT CONSULTANT - IT - LONDON

    £20000 - £30000 per annum + OTE £50k: SThree: SThree are a global FTSE 250 bus...

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - LONDON

    £20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40,000 + Car + Pension: SThree: SThree are a ...

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

    £20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £35K: SThree: We consistently strive to be the...

    SThree: Graduate Recruitment Consultant

    £20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £35000: SThree: SThree are a global FTSE 250 b...

    Day In a Page

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

    Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
    Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

    Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

    Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
    Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

    Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
    Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

    Autism-friendly theatre

    Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

    Panto dames: before and after

    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

    Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
    The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

    The man who hunts giants

    A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
    The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

    The 12 ways of Christmas

    We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
    Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

    The male exhibits strange behaviour

    A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
    Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

    Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

    Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
    From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

    From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

    The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
    A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

    A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

    The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'