PDF Living in the Light: How to Fight the Darkness of Depression and Anxiety

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First described in the s, the syndrome is characterized by recurrent depressions that occur annually at the same time each year. Most psychiatrists regard SAD as being a subclass of generalized depression or, in a smaller proportion of cases, bipolar disorder. Seasonality is reported by approximately 10 to 20 percent of people with depression and 15 to 22 percent of those with bipolar disorder.

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Even healthy people who have no seasonal problems seem to experience this low-amplitude change over the year, with worse mood and energy during autumn and winter and an improvement in spring and summer, she says. Why should darker months trigger this tiredness and low mood in so many people? There are several theories, none of them definitive, but most relate to the circadian clock—the roughly hour oscillation in our behavior and biology that influences when we feel hungry, sleepy or active.

This is no surprise given that the symptoms of the winter blues seem to be associated with shortening days and longer nights, and that bright light seems to have an anti-depressive effect.

A Torah Approach to Anxiety Relief

Another is that some people produce more of a hormone called melatonin during winter than in summer—just like certain other mammals that show strong seasonal patterns in their behavior. Levels of this hormone usually rise at night in response to darkness, helping us to feel sleepy, and are suppressed by the bright light of morning. Precisely why this should trigger feelings of depression is still unclear.

One idea is that this tiredness could then have unhealthy knock-on effects. However, recent insights into how birds and small mammals respond to changes in day length have prompted an alternative explanation. According to Daniel Kripke, an emeritus professor of psychiatry at the University of California, San Diego, when melatonin strikes a region of the brain called the hypothalamus, this alters the synthesis of another hormone—active thyroid hormone—that regulates all sorts of behaviors and bodily processes. When dawn comes later in the winter, the end of melatonin secretion drifts later, says Kripke.

From animal studies, it appears that high melatonin levels just after the time an animal wakes up strongly suppress the making of active thyroid hormone—and lowering thyroid levels in the brain can cause changes in mood, appetite and energy. For instance, thyroid hormone is known to influence serotonin, a neurotransmitter that regulates mood. Several studies have shown that levels of brain serotonin in humans are at their lowest in the winter and highest in the summer.

In , scientists in Canada discovered that people with severe SAD show greater seasonal changes in a protein that terminates the action of serotonin than others with no or less severe symptoms, suggesting that the condition and the neurotransmitter are linked. But regardless of what causes winter depression, bright light—particularly when delivered in the early morning—seems to reverse the symptoms. A month later, on November 28, , a newspaper story described Sam Eyde pushing the same idea, although it was another hundred years before it was realized. Instead, in Norsk Hydro erected a cable car as a gift to the townspeople, so that they could get high enough to soak up some sunlight in winter.

Instead of bringing the sun to the people, the people would be brought to the sunshine. But after receiving a small grant from the local council to develop the idea, he learned about this history and started to develop some concrete plans.

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These involved a heliostat: a mirror mounted in such a way that it turns to keep track of the sun while continually reflecting its light down towards a set target—in this case, Rjukan town square. The three mirrors, each measuring 17 square meters, stand proud upon the mountainside above the town. In January, the sun is only high enough to bring light to the square for two hours per day, from midday until 2 p. Stepping into the sunlight after hours in permanent shade, I become aware of just how much it shapes our perception of the world.

When I leave the sunlight, Rjukan feels a flatter, grayer place. As far back as the sixth century, historians were describing seasonal peaks of joy and sorrow among Scandinavians, brought about by the continuous daylight of summer and its almost complete absence in winter.

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In Sweden, an estimated 8 percent of the population suffer from SAD, with a further 11 percent said to suffer the winter blues. In early January, the sun rises at around a. For Anna Odder Milstam, an English and Swedish teacher, this means getting up and arriving at work before dawn for several months of the year.

They are less alert and less active at this time of year. Anna picks me up from my city-center hotel at a. Lindeborg School, where Anna teaches, caters for approximately pupils, ranging from preschool age through to Yet as my eyes adjust to the bright light, I see the curtains in this classroom are firmly closed. In front of me sit a class of year-olds at evenly spaced desks, watching my reaction with mild amusement.

They then grow gradually more intense as the morning progresses, dimming slightly in the run up to lunch to ease the transition to the gloomier light outside. The idea is it therefore strengthens our internal rhythms, so that when night comes around again, we start to feel sleepy at the correct time.

But it might. Besides suppressing melatonin and warding off any residual sleepiness, recent studies suggest that bright light acts as a stimulant to the brain. After exposure to white light, the brain was in a more active state in those areas that were involved in the task. Anna agrees. Anecdotally, she reports that her students are more alert. Of course, the idea of using light to counter the winter blues is nothing new.

SAD lamps are a mainstay of treatment for winter depression, and in Sweden, which was a vigorous early adopter of light therapy, clinics often went one step further: dressing patients in all-white clothes and sending them into white rooms filled with bright light. The room contains 12 white chairs and footstalls, each draped in a white towel and clustered around a white coffee table stacked with white cups, napkins and sugar cubes.

The only non-white object in the room is a jar of instant coffee granules. I had lost all sense of hope. Especially in Christian circles. He is the picture of anxiety gone out of control, right? These stigmas have really been a detriment to those of us dealing with these mental disorders. Through all of my years dealing with these disorders, I was teaching music in the public schools, serving in church ministry, and was the President of the non-profit community theater I started.

I was running this website, homeschooling my son, and leading worship. I was teaching the Bible all while walking through this very dark night of the soul. And to any judgmental critics reading this, I would say.

GGGTLACL: Darkness and Light: Depression

Have you read your Bible? Instead, you will find words that describe depression like downcast, grief, brokenhearted, troubled, mourning, and miserable. The man suffered greatly with seasons of depression. In 2 Samuel and 2 Samuel we see his grief over losing his two sons. In 1 Samuel 21, we read that David is on the run from Saul and has to pretend to be a madman to save his life.

For your arrows have sunk into me, and your hand has come down on me. There is no soundness in my flesh because of your indignation; there is no health in my bones because of my sin. For my iniquities have gone over my head; like a heavy burden, they are too heavy for me. For the waters have come up to my neck. I sink in deep mire, where there is no foothold; I have come into deep waters, and the flood sweeps over me.


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I am weary with my crying out; my throat is parched. My eyes grow dim with waiting for my God. David most certainly dealt with seasons of anxiety and depression, but he kept his hope and faith in God to deliver him over anything he was up against. This is the man who stood on the top of Mount Carmel and defied the prophets of Baal. After that incredible stand against evil -after that stress-filled season - even after God showed up like He always does, Elijah sunk down deep.

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How to Fight for Faith in the Dark: Three Lessons for Depression | Desiring God

Job suffered great loss and devastation, and even physical illness that had him pen words such as those found in Job or Job Have you ever felt this way? I know I have. Even Jesus was anguished over what lay before Him.