The alterations start every year around October just after the end of daylight savings time. For most, the clock shift just adds an hour to the weekend -- but for sufferers of seasonal affective disorder, a syndrome involving recurring bouts of depression during fall and winter months, it marks the beginning of a difficult time of year when many forgo an after-work run for a nap, watch television instead of walk the dog, or sleep later in the morning.
With this year's turning back of the clock, the 14.5 million Americans susceptible to SAD may begin feeling fatigued, worthless, disinterested, even suicidal.
Many will receive treatment involving sitting in front of a light box for an hour or two a day in hopes that the white fluorescent or full-spectrum light will simulate sunlight and make them feel better.
The treatment works reasonably well but is hard to stick with, so Kelly Rohan, a SAD expert and assistant professor of psychology at the University of Vermont, views it as more a quick fix than long-term solution.
She is currently exploring treatment through cognitive-behavioral therapy, a commonly used form of "talk therapy" that has been used for non-seasonal depression since the 1960s, with SAD patients.
She thinks this is the first time this type of therapy has been deployed to treat SAD, and the results in early research and clinical trials are promising.
In a 2005 study involving 61 patients, Rohan treated one group with daily light therapy, another with 12 sessions of CBT and a third group with a combination of both treatments. A less popular option -- selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors -- wasn't used.
Rohan's findings, which will be published later this year as a follow-up to a 2004 study that appeared in the June issue of Journal of Affective Disord
Contact: Jeff Wakefield
University of Vermont