If you are feeling a little ho-hum down in the dumps these days there may be something to it like Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD. Scientists estimate that 10 million Americans suffer from seasonal depression, 25 million more develop milder versions. We met one Sioux Falls man who says once he saw the light he wasn't SAD anymore.
Don Lehmann makes a point to get to the gym everyday. The retired pastor and social worker says he has the time now and the motivation. Exercise, along with medication and daily light therapy, helps with his seasonal affective disorder or SAD. A syndrome Avera Psychiatrist Dr. David Bean at the Avera Behavioral Health Center says is real and tends to hit a lot of us in the northern plains more so than people in the south, especially this time of year when the days become shorter and the skies become cloudier.
Dr. Bean says, "People feel sad and blue down in the dumps grumpy they don't know what's going on, but when the light is out they feel better and when it's not out they feel worse."
Don Lehmann says, "I wasn't agitated or down that much but my wife could tell you I would walk slower, speak slower, my sense of humor, creativity and energy levels were down. It was nothing real striking like I couldn't function but I just wasn't the same so I went to see Dr. Bean."
Dr. Bean says a lot of his patients prefer to sit in front of their light therapy boxes right away in the morning for a minimum of 30 minutes, but light therapy does work. When Don was at work he would have his SAD light on his desk and come in and out of it all day. Now that he is retired he has it at home and uses it everyday in the morning.
Dr. Bean says, "The intensity of the SAD light is at 10,000 lux within 18-24" of you. You could stand in the cold on a cloudy day and get enough light, but no one wants to do that."
Lehmann says he and his wife make a point to go somewhere sunny and warm every winter and when he's home in Sioux Falls during the fall and winter months he continues to fight the winter blues with light and a workout everyday.
Dr. Bean cautions about buying lights from department stores advertised as "daylight simulators". He says those make good reading lamps but don't have the intensity to treat SAD. You can find the proper lights at the Avera Living Well Center in Sioux Falls at 33rd and Minnesota Avenue.