Tidings of great sadness

December 26, 1997

CHRISTMAS is a merry time for some, but for people suffering from Seasonally Affective Disorder (SAD) Christmas only makes them sadder.

Mental health specialists at the University of Southampton have found people with the condition, which is a form of depression triggered by lack of sunlight, have a particularly difficult time around the festive season.

They either look forward to the celebrations to make them feel better and fall into a deep depression once they are all over, or they become overwhelmed with pressures to party and organise the Christmas period.

Nick Martin, a member of the Southampton team, said: "At a time of year when they are feeling at their worst and their self esteem is particularly low Christmas can have a bad effect.

"Whereas in summer they would be able to see all the positive things, their perception changes because they are depressed."

He said a bad winter with several dark days could make these pressures unbearable.

The best way for sufferers to help themselves, he says, is to plan Christmas thoroughly, not take on too much, get other people to help and make sure they do plenty of pleasurable activities.

It is also important to make effective use of the special lamps that are the main form of treatment.

But Mr Martin said this could cause problems at Christmas too because sufferers of SAD may be embarrassed to use it in front of other people. He said: "Not everyone likes to expose themselves to their treatment in other people's homes because they sometimes don't want to admit to a mental health problem."

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