18 posts from November, 2011

It’s the Season for Seasonal Affective Disorder

Posted November 15th, 2011 by

Now that daylight savings time has ended, the days are shorter, and before you know it, it’s nightfall.  Has this affected your mood?

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD), also known as seasonal depression, is a condition marked by a period of depression that occurs during the same season year after year.  In most cases, that season would be fall through winter (when there is less sunlight), but for some people, SAD can occur during spring or summer.

An Example of a Light Therapy Box Used to Treat SAD

One of the best ways to learn “what’s normal and not normal?” with SAD is to compare your experiences with other patients. There are 446 patients with SAD at PatientsLikeMe, with 85% of them female and 15% male.  A commonly reported treatment is light therapy, or the use of a special light box that exposes you to bright light.  This mimics the effect of natural outdoor light and appears to cause a change in brain chemicals that positively affects your mood.  (Does it really work?  Check out the 27 treatment evaluations for light therapy that our patients have submitted.)

What’s it like to live with SAD?  Here are some first-hand reports from members of our mental health community, who answered the question “What are your SAD symptoms?

  • “My symptoms tend to be worsening depression and anxiety.  There are no ‘indicator’ symptoms for me – meaning I don’t realize necessarily ‘Oh I’m starting to feel SAD, crap!’  But all of my Major Depressive Episodes (five so far since I was 20) have occurred in November and December.  And looking back, I can see a downward trend in especially depressive symptoms getting worse starting in mid October – such as depressed mood, more frequent crying spells, fatigue, worse insomnia, headaches worsen, weight and appetite changes, and urges to self-injure.  Three of my Major Depressive Episodes led to suicidal thoughts and short hospitalizations.  The other two, I had frequent suicidal thoughts but did not feel in danger of acting upon them.” – Member with panic disorder
  • “[Symptoms are] mild now, but they ran the spectrum from comatose to the walking functional. Kids don’t understand, and our school bus arrived at 6:00 a.m. Needless to say they weren’t hungry, food on the bus = school contraband, so I’d whip up scrambled eggs with cheese and wrap them in a taco shell and tell them to sneak a bite when they got hungry. They just threw them in the bushes for the local dogs to eat. Then I’d watch TV and answer the ever increasing phone calls all day long. If I felt OK, I’d start to prepare for the tornado that was spring.  Nowadays since I don’t have so much responsibility, my symptoms seem mild, but that could change depending on the winds of life events.” – Member with bipolar II disorder
  • “I think it varies year to year in terms of severity.  The March/April period is characterized by an increase in my anxiety levels together with restlessness and restrictive eating. The September/October period is characterized by an increase in my feelings of sadness along with intense carbohydrate cravings and a need to sleep more.  Both periods are marked by problems concentrating.  I notice that the light box really helps with the carbohydrate cravings. I think it might even make me less hungry overall.  It’s not that the cravings go away entirely, but instead they are dampened to the level where I *don’t* find myself eating cookies without realizing how I got them.” – Member with major depressive disorder

Wondering what else they patients have to say about SAD?  Or think you might experience the condition yourself?  Join PatientsLikeMe and take part in this ongoing SAD forum discussion.


Act Now for World Diabetes Day

Posted November 14th, 2011 by

Today Is World Diabetes Day

Today is World Diabetes Day, sponsored by the International Diabetes Federation.  An official United Nations Day since 2007, World Diabetes Day is held every year on November 14th to commemorate the birthday of Frederick Banning.  Along with Charles Best, Banning is credited with the life-saving discovery of insulin in 1922.

Why is there a need for a global diabetes day?  As the United Nations wrote in their 2007 resolution, diabetes is “a chronic, debilitating and costly disease associated with major complications that pose severe risks for families, countries and the entire world.”  Namely, it is the cause of four million deaths worldwide every year, with someone dying every eight seconds from the disease.

The global symbol for diabetes awareness is a blue circle, and supporters everywhere are encouraged to wear blue today to help spread the word about this pandemic.  You can also help get the message out about prevention.  While type 1 diabetes cannot be prevented, research shows that, in many cases, type 2 diabetes can be prevented by maintaining a healthy weight and being physically active.  Regular walking for at least 30 minutes per day, for example, has been shown to reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes by 35-40%.

We recently highlighted type 1 diabetes (and how it differs from type 2) in our blog post, “American Diabetes Month Kicks Off with T1 Day,” as well as our two-part interview with type 1 patient Michael Burke.  Here’s a little more information about type 2 diabetes, which accounts for at least 90% of all diabetes cases worldwide.  At PatientsLikeMe, 1,773 patients report type 2 diabetes, with 68% of them female and 32% male.  One of the most commonly reported treatments is Metformin, an oral anti-diabetic medication prescribed when hyperglycemia (high blood sugar) due to diabetes cannot be controlled through exercise and diet alone.  What do patients say about this drug?  Check out the 125 treatment evaluations submitted by our members, who share their experiences with dosage, side effects, efficacy, cost and more.

Diabetes University Takes Place Every Year on World Diabetes Day in Atlanta, Georgia

With a staggering 366 million people diagnosed with diabetes worldwide – and another 300 million at risk – it’s imperative that diabetes awareness and knowledge grow faster than the disease itself.  The new “Calling All Types” diabetes awareness campaign – an initiative of PatientsLikeMe and our partner BBK Worldwide – helped mark World Diabetes Day this past weekend at the Diabetes University 2011 event in Atlanta, Georgia.  Now in its 18th year, this event works to educate both medical professionals and the public.  Given that the prevalence of diabetes in Atlanta is a full point higher than the national average, Calling All Types has made Atlanta the focal point of the campaign’s initial awareness-raising activities.

Are you a type 1 or type 2 diabetes patient?  Share your story at CallingAllTypes.com in honor of World Diabetes Day.  For everyone else, “act now” by wearing blue, talking about type 2 diabetes prevention or simply taking a walk around your neighborhood.