I was recently alerted to a newspaper article penned by Irish psychiatrist Patricia Casey. The article, which first appeared in the magazine 'Healthy & Living', covers the "brain disorder" known as seasonal affective disorder, otherwise known as SAD.
I couldn't conjure up a better name for a brain disorder than this particular one, well, I could but it would never be accepted by the white-coated posse who write the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders [DSM]
What better way to tell someone they are sad...by telling them sad is a brain disorder?
Whilst I'm aware that the rolling of the clocks back an hour changes people's moods, I really don't think it's necessary to treat those moods with antidepressant medication, I don't think it should be labelled as a mental disorder either. Furthermore, those that think it is, probably have some sort of disorder themselves.
Sure, these early dark evenings are pretty miserable, particularly when accompanied by the harsh weather conditions of recent years in the UK and Ireland, but should we really be reaching for the medicine cabinet as Casey suggests in her article?
Admittedly, Casey writes about another treatment as well.before she goes down the antidepressant route. Light boxes, where the person with this mental disorder sits and stares at a light. I really cannot envisage a picture more 'sad' than someone sitting alone in a room and staring at a light - that would be enough to send the white-coated gents around with a straitjacket and forcibly inject the subject staring at the light.
There is no doubt that the sun makes us feel happy, the dark fills the majority of us with a sense of fear - even the word 'Dark' has negative connotations, something that the DSM seemed to have pounced upon.
Casey writes about studies from Canada that have shown that when clocks shift backwards the incidence of depressive illness increases, probably mediated by the effect on sleep. It is found in both hemispheres, especially in northern latitudes and is almost unknown in those living within 30 degrees north or south of the equator.
I'm loving that word 'Probably'.
If this is 'probably' down to a lack of sleep then why isn't the sleep problem tackled? Why is it ignored and replaced with a mental disorder?
Long gone are the days when Horlicks was promoted to help you sleep better, ironically Horlicks is manufactured by GlaxoSmithKline, the company that apparently helps people do more, feel better and live longer. Judging by their recent $3 billion fine for illegally marketing it's products I'd suggest that they change their tagline to something more appropriate, something like, "Buy more, don't ask questions and live shorter lives."
Casey, to me at least, is seen in a bad light [excuse the pun]. Touting antidepressants in a magazine that is widely read in doctor's surgery waiting rooms around the UK and Ireland is nothing short of advertising by proxy.
"Hey Doc, I was here to see you because I have a wart on my toe but I was just reading about SAD in a magazine and it appears I have it!"
"Describe your symptoms for me"
"Well, the clocks went back last week and around 4.30pm my mood changes"
"Yup, sounds like you have seasonal effective disorder to me, have you tried staring at a light?
**Patient stares at doctor and walks slowly backwards out of the door.
Even more preposterous would be the suggestion of antidepressant medication but we...or at least the majority of us, take it as a given that feeling blue, because it is dark, is a mental disorder. Articles, such as Casey's, throw no real light on the root cause [excuse the pun again]
Coming soon to the Healthy & Living magazine, 'Why the moon makes us insane' by Dr Looney.
Casey has, in the past, set solicitors on to people who have different opinions to hers, you can see those threatening letters here and here.
In the meantime, this is for Patricia Casey, it's a poem I penned many years ago, it ended up in an anthology of poetry for children. It kind of explains the dark... and there is no mention of antidepressant medication either.
Don't be afraid as I enter your room
Just let your mind drift like a floating balloon.
I've come to take the remains of the day,
Go deeper little one and let your mind stray.
Dream of the swings over the park,
Hurry now small child for it will soon be dark.
If you wake up you'll have nothing to fear
Just sit up in bed and let your mind clear.
For I am your friend, I mean you no harm,
So don't be afraid, stay cool, stay calm.
Let your eyes wander through my blanket of black
And don't wish me away for I'll always come back.
It's light that is evil as it enters your world,
Ordering you to see things that make your toes curl.
So don't be afraid as your day turns to night
Just remember I'm here to cast out bad light.
© BOB FIDDAMAN
Casey's article, "Don't be afraid of the dark", can be read HERE