Bears hibernate during winter months and most humans feel like they want to. Both happen for the same reason – the lack of sunlight during those cold months.
Researchers at Yale believe winter depression, or Seasonal Affective Disorder, is a serious health problem that goes mostly untreated in Connecticut.
Yale psychiatrist Paul Desan said 90 percent of people surveyed reported physical and mental changes when the days get shorter and colder. Some of those should be getting treatment but might not realize how easy it can be.
Dr. Desan said a cure is in the form of a light box. The metal box, about 2-feet wide, that emits strong florescent light can cure as many as 80 percent of S.A.D. cases. He has studied the condition for a decade and is trying to raise awareness about a proven cure that does not involve drugs, just light.
“In Canada people are much more aware of this and you can buy a light treatment device in the drug store, but in Connecticut we have, in my opinion, a large public health problem” Desan said.
Light treatment can cure not only depression, but it can also prevent weight gain.
Dr. Desan said study participants can feel as good as they do in the summer by getting light treatment.
His recommended dose is 45 minutes in front of a light box each morning, before 8 a.m., which is essential to resetting the body’s clock.
Patients can reduce that amount of exposure after a while, but the treatment must still be done five or six days a week.
One problem is that light boxes are large and some can run as high as $300.
There are portable units on the market, but Desan warns that buyers should beware because none have FDA approval, yet. Yale psychiatry researchers in the Winter Depression Research Clinic are hoping to have the first portable unit to win government approval for treatment of S.A.D.
The device they’re developing is only about 8 inches around, but extremely bright, using light-emitting diodes.
Someone could move the portable unit around with them as they go about their morning routine, rather than having to sit in front of a large light box.
Instead of buying blind off the Internet, Dr. Desan suggests using brands that the non-profit Society for Light Treatment and Biological Rhythm recommends.