Wednesday, October 16, 2002

Saalon has an article about how he thinks he may have Seasonal Affective Disorder. Interesting. I’ll respond, but first: My first reaction upon hearing about another “disorder” is to roll my eyes. I think that a lot of disorders are simply labels of normal or slightly unusual behavior. OTOH, they may very well be accurate diagnoses.

So, let’s dive into this one. I’m going to present two responses, the Devil’s Advocate (DA) and my own opinion.

[This morning] I woke up in the near dark after clearly getting enough sleep and yet still being tired and cranky. I had gone through the summer having no problems getting up for work, but now I was suddenly wanting to call off just so I could conk back out. What was going on?

DA: You were just sleepy. We all have times when we just don’t want to go to work; this was one of those times.

Me: I’m going to side with DA on this one; it sounds like you were just getting up on the wrong side of the bed this morning.

[SAD] is caused by “a biochemical imbalance in the hypothalamus due to the shortening of daylight hours and the lack of sunlight in winter”

DA: So your hypothalamus switches its chemicals output because there’s less sun beating down on your head? Huh?

Me: This does seem strange, though it’s possible. The brain’s chemical throughput seems to be based on all sorts of stimuli. Heck, if we can get an adrenaline surge just by seeing something that we classify as disturbing, why can’t the hypothalamus need a lot of light?

[Symptoms include] “…desire to oversleep and difficulty staying awake…” and “…feeling of fatigue and inability to carry out normal routine…” and also “…loss of self-esteem…hopelessness and despair…apathy and loss of feelings…” Ok this is just creepy. This is my mood in the winter, nearly every winter.

DA: This is describing either normal fatigue or mild depression. This is a full-scale disorder?!?

Me: Okay, that is interesting. I’ll agree with DA that these symptoms seem awfully generic, but it is suspicious that all of these symptoms apply perfectly.

I’ve traditionally, for instance, had a problem with second semesters in college. I charge through first semester, or at least most of it, but when the second semester starts I’m suddenly unwilling to wake up for class, do homework or even much of anything else.

DA: That sounds like being tired out after a full semester of schoolwork. The second semester is almost always harder than the first, and if you’ve just pushed through one full semester, after coming back from a (usually stressful) Christmas holiday, it’s only natural to feel pooped out.

Me: I’m going to side with DA here. It’s certainly possible that this is due to the seasons, but I think DA’s explanation is just as likely.

…attendance at work: I called off all of once all summer, from March until September. And yet I called off nearly once a month, if not more, through winter. Only one of those calloffs was due to exstreme illness. The rest was just feeling more blah than usual.

DA: This could coincidence, or related to increased stress at work, or a number of other factors. Saalon’s been going through a lot at work, and that probably subconsciously affected his desire to go to work.

Me: Hmmmmm. That is strange.

Finally, it seems there’s often a period of “hypomania or hyperactivity” when Spring hits. Oh, you mean like outlining and finishing a script in a week after a winter of not doing anything at all? Perhaps.

DA: I’m betting on coincidence here. A period of inactivity happened to coincide with the winter months, and afterwards you (naturally) wanted to be really productive. This could be your brain overcompensating for a perceived lack of productivity.

Me: I have to disagree with DA; this is fairly strong evidence.

So, overall, I’m not sure about this. It’s an interesting possibility, but I wouldn’t put a large bet on Saalon suffering from this disorder (with an incredibly apt acronym; I wonder if it’s intentional).

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