Home > 88. The Quaggas of Creativity > Seasonal Affective Disorder–Quaggas of Creativity, Post 6

Seasonal Affective Disorder–Quaggas of Creativity, Post 6

It may be that dystopia is the most characteristic literary form of the 20th century, present in both 1984 and The Lord of the Rings–to RT’s mind, the two greatest works of fiction published in English during the last century. There can be no question that that amazing and appalling century gave novelists of despair much to work with; on the other hand, writers and indeed artists in every medium are known for their perennial struggle with melancholy in its several forms. And certainly no form of depression is more insidious than seasonal affective disorder, a kind of hibernation gone berserk.

So far, the Quaggas of Creativity have focused on positive aspects of the process of making something new, but with winter coming on, it seems appropriate to turn our attention to one of the occupational hazards of the creative life.

A) Here are the symptoms of SAD: 1) difficulty waking up in the morning; 2) morning sickness; 3) a tendency to oversleep and overeat; and especially a craving for carbohydrates; 4) a lack of energy; 5) difficulty concentrating on or completing tasks; 6) withdrawal from friends, family, and social activities; and 7) a decreased sex drive. These signs are accompanied by general depression and feelings of hopelessness, intense enough in some people that they lead to thoughts of suicide.

At least one thing seems certain about SAD: it is caused by waning light levels during the fall and winter months. The benefits of adequate exposure to sunlight include improved immune response, an easing of the symptoms of Alzheimer’s, better sleep, and, yes, a brighter overall mood. One key physical benefit of sunlight is the production of vitamin D.

Consider how much, even during summer, the intensity of daylight varies: from a maximum of 120,000 lux (brightest sunlight), to 40 lux during sunrise, sunset, and fully overcast skies, to <1 lux under the darkest storm clouds.

As one might expect, people living in high-latitude regions are more susceptible to SAD: in Florida, the prevalence of the condition is 1.9%; in New Hampshire, 9.5%.

B) Fortunately, several treatments are available for SAD: 1) light therapy; 2) anti-depressant medication; 3) cognitive-behavioral therapy; 4) vitamin D supplementation; and 5) carefully timed supplementation with melatonin.

Readers should bear in mind that RT is not a doctor or medical professional, and if they suspect that they might be suffering from SAD, they should consult a doctor.

C) People have long suspected the existence of a link between creativity and mental illness, and in fact the list of successful and creative people who suffered from mental illness is suggestive and includes such luminaries as Vincent Van Gogh, Abraham Lincoln, and Beethoven. But exactly what the mechanism or connection is remains undetermined.



Photo: Person undergoing light therapy. WikiCmns; Public Domain.


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