Okay, folks, we’ve got two days until Armageddon for depressives: Daylight Savings Time. Time to pull out the HappyLites!

In case you think I’m making up all this stuff about less light leading to depression, especially in the winter months, I will quote a woman with much more medical knowledge and expertise than me: Karen Swartz, M.D., Director of Clinical Programs at the Johns Hopkins Mood Disorders Center, and one of the physicians who evaluated me when I was severely depressed in March of 2006.

Here’s what she says in a special report as part of the Fall 2007 Johns Hopkins Depression and Anxiety Bulletin called “Getting Relief From Light Therapy”:

Some people experience episodes of depression only during the winter months, particularly January and February, when there is less sunlight–thus the name “winter depression,” or seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Typically, symptoms of depression peak in the winter and recede in the spring. 

As seasons change, so does the amount of daily sunlight, which in turn causes changes in the body’s internal biological clock, known as circadian rhythm. This rhythm is a 24-hour cycle that affects our eating and sleeping patterns, brain wave activity, hormone production, and other biological activities. In some people, less daily sunlight and changes in circadian rhythm can bring about depression.

One theory is that the relative lack of sunlight during these times may alter brain levels of certain mood-related chemicals, for example, increasing levels of the hormone melatonin.

People with SAD often eat and sleep excessively, crave sugary or starchy foods, and have a full remission in the spring and summer when more daily sunlight is available.


Click here to subscribe to Beyond Blue and click here to follow Therese on Twitter and click here to join Group Beyond Blue, a depression support group. Now stop clicking.

More from Beliefnet and our partners
previous posts

“Bewitched, bothered, and bewildered am I” wrote US songwriter Lorenz Hart about the feeling of infatuation. It’s blissful and euphoric, as we all know. But it’s also addicting, messy and blinding. Without careful monitoring, its wild wind can rage through your life leaving you much like the lyrics of a country song: without a wife, […]

When does reciting scripture become a symptom of neurosis? Or praying the rosary an unhealthy compulsion? Not until I had the Book of Psalms practically memorized as a young girl did I learn that words and acts of faith can morph into desperate measures to control a mood disorder, that faithfulness and piety can disguise acute […]

One of my mom’s best pieces of advice: “Hang with the winners.” This holds true in support groups (stick with the people who have the most sobriety), in college (find the peeps with good study habits), and in your workplace (stay away from the drama queen at the water cooler). Why? Because we actually become […]

For people prone to depression and anxiety – i.e. human beings – the holidays invite countless possibility to get sucked into negative and catastrophic thinking. You take the basic stressed-out individual and you increase her to-do list by a third, stuff her full of refined sugar and processed foods, force her into social gatherings at […]