The History of Seasonal Affective Disorder

The end of daylight savings time marks the unofficial start of winter blues season. Many of us who suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) notice an upswing in depression symptoms around this time of year: sluggishness, gloomy thinking, self-isolation.

Changing the clocks doesn’t really change the day/night ratio, of course. We lose a few minutes of daylight everyday from June 21 to December 21 (vice versa for the southern hemisphere). However, suddenly losing a full hour of afternoon sure can feel unnerving if you’re prone to SAD. The day after “fall back” is usually the day I unpack my lightbox for the coming winter.


The Washington Post recently ran a great article about the history and science of Seasonal Affective Disorder.

The article’s headline boasts, “We helped discover seasonal affective disorder”, a reference to a 1981 Washington Post article on the subject which elicited thousands of reader reponses to groundbreaking researcher Norman Rosenthal.

From the 2015 article:

Rosenthal, who, with the help of his colleagues, was the first to identify and in 1984 label seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, has spent the last 30 years of his career studying and refining the causes, symptoms and cures for depression induced by lack of light.
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In the early 1980s, Rosenthal discovered that “lengthening” the shorter winter days with artificial light could boost mood and energy. It’s believed that for people with SAD the lack of light slows their release of serotonin – a brain chemical that affects mood.
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From the 2013 fourth edition of his book, “Winter Blues,” here are five treatments Rosenthal suggests for combating SAD. He says they can all be used together for a holistic approach.

Click through to check out Rosenthal’s five suggested treatments. The “holistic approach” to depression, combining several tools and habits into an overall depression-fighting life strategy, is something Smash Depression has advocated from the start.

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