"Whoever wishes to pursue the science of medicine in a direct manner must first investigate the seasons of the year and what occurs in them." Hippocrates (6)
As the shortest day of the year approaches, more and more multi-colored lights and bright, festive decorations are splashed across houses and yards everywhere. Long ago, in more earthy times, people celebrated the solstice because it was the rebirth of the sun, when days began to lengthen and light began to return. As our ancient ancestors probably realized, their celebrations helped to keep spirits up when times were dark and cold, just as our modern holiday light displays function as a way to ward off the winter blues. (1)
However, not everybody can shake the sadness that comes at this time of year, usually because they are suffering from a type of clinical depression called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). When a person has SAD, he or she regularly experiences depression in the winter months that then subsides in the spring and summer months. Although first identified around 1845, this mood disorder was not officially classified until 1984 when psychiatrist Norman E. Rosenthal, M.D., began to study cases of depression that seemed to occur during the winter only. (2) After an article was published in The Washington Post about his research, Rosenthal received a nationwide response from thousands of people who experienced the same symptoms he had observed in his patients. (3). After further research he compiled his studies in Winter Blues: Seasonal Affective Disorder: What It Is and How to Overcome It, which he recently revised, updated, and rereleased in October 1998.
Although the cause of this disorder is attributed to the lack of exposure to sunlight, it has not yet been determined whether a person's susceptibility to it is genetic or stress-related or both. Dr. Rosenthal finds the causes of SAD to be "a... [continues]
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