Tanning beds and depression

Tanning no cure for seasonal depression

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – People who suffer from winter depression known as “seasonal affective disorder” or SAD — or the less severe but more common “winter blues” — shouldn’t seek relief in a tanning bed or booth, a leading expert on light therapy warns.

SAD is often treated with daily sessions of exposure to bright light. While some isolated reports have linked tanning to improvements in mood, Dr. Michael Terman told Reuters Health, the fact is that real light therapy works through the eyes, not the skin, and uses a completely different type of light.

Even if artificial tanning did turn out to improve mood, the increased risk of skin cancer would far outweigh its benefits, added Terman, who is the director of the Center for Light Treatment and Biological Rhythms at New York-Presbyterian Hospital in Manhattan.

According to The Skin Cancer Foundation, the newest sunlamps produce up to as a dozen times as much ultraviolet light as real sunshine, while tanning bed users are at greater risk of developing skin cancers. UV light can also harm the eyes, Terman noted, and studies have shown the goggles people use in tanning beds and booths can allow significant amounts of the damaging rays to reach the eyes.

Some people become clinically depressed in the fall and winter months, while many more — an estimated one-quarter of people living in the middle and northern latitudes of the US — will see a drop in mood as the days get shorter. We rely on bright morning light to reset our biological clocks every day, and when work and school obligations force us to wake up well before sunrise, our biological clocks start running out of sync with our external environment. “That is a formula for depression,” Terman explained.

So light therapy is believed to work by resetting our biological clocks with a properly timed dose of artificial sunshine. It’s effective both for SAD and for less severe seasonal mood problems. However, ultraviolet light that tanning beds and booths use to brown the skin is not part of the prescription.

Neither is light on the blue end of the spectrum, Terman added. Some companies have latched on to studies suggesting extra benefits to blue light by making blue-light-only light boxes, despite the lack of any evidence for their clinical benefit. In fact, he noted, this type of light is so harsh that it’s difficult for people to look at.

The Food and Drug Administration doesn’t regulate light boxes, so there’s no guarantee that devices on the market will help, he said, and some evidence that they could be harmful, for example by failing to adequately filter out ultraviolet radiation.

Effective light boxes use soft white lights tending toward the red end of the spectrum, and should emit 10,000 lux of illumination to be optimally effective, according to Terman. Light boxes should also have a filter or diffuser to protect the eyes and skin from ultraviolet light, he added. Staring at a naked bulb can harm the eyes, and won’t be effective, because light actually exerts its beneficial effects at the periphery of our vision.

Terman supervises a non-profit Web site, the Center for Environmental Therapeutics (www.cet.org), that offers information on how to choose a light box, as well as a self-test that lets people figure out if they might need to see a doctor for seasonal mood problems. “There’s a tendency to want to self-treat with light therapy,” Terman said. “Self-treatment with light therapy is clearly contraindicated for anyone with major depression. There are too many ways you can do it wrong, and you’ll be even worse for it.”

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Why Indoor Tanning Won’t Cure SAD

Those looking to alleviate symptoms of seasonal affective disorder (SAD) should steer clear of indoor ultraviolet (UV) tanning, as it does not treat the disorder and is extremely harmful to health. Light therapy, an effective treatment for SAD, acts through the eyes and relies on visible light, whereas the dangerous UV radiation emitted by tanning beds is invisible light.

SAD is a form of depression believed to be caused by a hormonal imbalance that is commonly triggered during the shorter days of winter. Generally, levels of melatonin (a sleep-related hormone) in the body are higher at night and lower in the morning. For people with SAD, however, the cycle is often delayed, and melatonin levels remain elevated into the morning, causing them to oversleep or leaving them fatigued. Meanwhile, the brain’s internal clock relies on early morning light to keep circadian rhythms in sync with local time, but the late sunrises of winter deny our bodies that essential signal. Depression can result when we have to keep waking up while it is still dark.

Research indicates that attempts to improve mood may motivate people to become habitual indoor tanners, and that this behavior can become addictive. In one study, 80 percent of frequent tanners reported symptoms of SAD, and investigators suspect that some tanners use UV-emitting tanning beds to try to alleviate symptoms.

“Using indoor UV tanning beds to alleviate SAD has been linked with tanning addiction and seriously increases skin cancer risk,” said Perry Robins, MD, President of The Skin Cancer Foundation. “There are ways to ward off symptoms of SAD without compromising your health, such as receiving light therapy from a visible light box and adjusting aspects of your lifestyle, including your sleeping pattern, diet and physical activity.”

The dangers of tanning are well-documented: one indoor tanning session increases users’ chances of developing melanoma (the most dangerous form of skin cancer) by 20 percent. Regular tanners are 2.5 more likely to develop squamous cell carcinoma and 1.5 times more likely to develop basal cell carcinoma, the two most common skin cancers. To safely and effectively treat SAD, trade in trips to the tanning salon for these healthy alternatives:

Sit by a light box for 30 minutes each morning.

A light box is a portable, visible light source that provides up to 10,000 lux (a measure of light’s intensity) and is up to 10 to 25 times as bright as ordinary lighting. A light box is equivalent to outdoor light about 40 minutes after sunrise, and is beneficial in providing the body with enough visible light to decrease feelings of lethargy and fatigue by lowering the level of melatonin in the body. Choose a light box with 10,000 lux of illumination, since those offering fewer lux are not as effective. It is also important to use a UV filter and look for soft, white lights when shopping for a light box in order to minimize both UV radiation and blue light (which can also harm the eyes). The light should project downward toward the eyes to minimize glare.

Make sleep a priority.

Adjust your schedule to fit in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) recommended seven to nine hours of sleep each night, and wake up earlier to take advantage of natural light. Getting enough, but not too much, sleep is beneficial to both physical and mental health and helps stabilize mood and reduce anxiety. Finding ways to relax and recharge each night is key.

Maintain a balanced diet.

Eating a well-balanced diet full of fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains and calcium-rich foods, while reducing your intake of foods high in fats, sodium and added sugars, can help improve your energy level and relieve stress.

Find time for fitness.

Exercise has also been linked to improved mood, and relieves feelings of stress and anxiety, which are both symptoms of SAD. The CDC recommends 150 minutes of moderately intense aerobic activity every week. It is best to exercise outdoors before or after the hours between 10 AM and 4 PM (when the sun’s rays are strongest). Always practice proper sun protection: this includes covering up with clothing, including a wide-brimmed hat and UV-blocking sunglasses, and applying a broad-spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher to the entire body.

If you are experiencing symptoms associated with SAD, consult your physician before making any decisions. Symptoms of the disorder include hopelessness, anxiety, increased appetite, weight gain, a heavy feeling in the arms or legs, and loss of interest in activities.

For more information about skin cancer prevention, visit SkinCancer.org.

Tags: bright light boxes, Bright light therapy, Depression, Light box therapy, Light Boxes, Light Therapy, Light therapy boxes, light therapy for sad, Melatonin, SAD, SAD light, SAD light boxes, SAD light therapy, SAD lights, Seasonal Affective Disorder, seasonal affective disorder light, Seasonal affective disorder light therapy, Severe Depression, Treatment, Winter Blues, Winter Depression

This entry was posted on Monday, March 25th, 2013 at 11:29 am and is filed under SAD. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.

Around March, some of us take a kick at the snow mounded on the curb and wonder if spring is finally going to drop by. The sun sets before we go home, and the cold coops us up except for runs to the grocery store. All of this amounts to something known informally as the winter blues, because those wintry days and dead trees can put us in a glum mood. But in the 1980s, research at the National Institutes of Mental Health led to recognition of a form of depression known as seasonal affective disorder (shortened, of course, to SAD). Seasonal affective disorder was categorized under major depression to signify depression with a yearly recurrence, a condition far more debilitating than your average “winter blues.” Mention of SAD in research and books peaked in the 1990s, and today SAD is considered a diagnosable (and insurable) disorder. Treatment ranges from psychotherapy to antidepressants to light therapy — large boxes filled with lightbulbs that look like tanning beds for your face.

However, a recent study questions the existence of seasonal depression entirely. Each year, the Centers for Disease Control conducts a large cross-sectional study of the US population. A group of researchers realized they could use the CDC results independently to investigate how much depression changes by season. The 2006 version of the CDC study included a set of questions typically used to screen for depression. By analyzing the answers gathered from 34,000 adults over the course of the year, the researchers might detect flareups of seasonal affective disorder. They might see wintertime surges in depression. “To be honest, we initially did not question the diagnosis,” writes investigator Dr. Steven LoBello, the goal being “to determine the actual extent to which depression changes with the seasons.”

Other patterns might emerge. There could be an overall increase in reported depressive symptoms at northernmost latitudes if low light exposure is what brings about a cycle of the depression. After all, light seems to be key. The development of artificial light therapies for SAD patients has relied on links between increased light and increased mood. For those living with SAD, both season and latitude should vary in light levels and interact with depressive symptoms.

Megan Traffanstedt and Dr. LoBello, in collaboration with Dr. Sheila Mehta, searched the CDC’s survey results for links between high scores on the depression screen and particular seasons or latitudes. The researchers also looked to see if high latitudes combined with the winter season to raise the frequency of depressed answers more than high latitude or winter alone. Hours of sunlight at a given location and date are available from the U.S. Naval Observatory, so the researchers even tested for links between depression scores and hours of sunlight on the day a score was collected. If light is responsible for SAD, then looking at hours of sunlight should be a sensitive way to detect people with SAD among the general population, they thought.

Instead, the CDC survey revealed no evidence for seasonal affective disorder. The researchers were wary of overlooking SAD trends among the huge non-SAD population, so they reanalyzed answers from a subset of people who classified as depressed at the time of the survey. Still no sign of SAD. No seasonal or light-dependent increases appeared in the depression measures. We might wonder if something was wrong with the phone study, but other well-established trends appeared in the survey data, such as higher rates of depression for women and the unemployed. The fluctuation in depression from SAD was either nonexistent or undetectable.

As you might expect, other researchers have also asked how SAD plays out across the seasons and if it is more common in countries at different latitudes. The results are mixed, and these studies seem to face two problems. One problem lies with the questions being asked. Those questions typically used to screen for SAD, while very specific, are also incredibly leading. Imagine you are answering a battery of questions about how your mood, weight, appetite vary over the year, then filling out charts to compare your habits over the the seasons. You are asked to consider at which time of the year you gain or lose weight, sleep or eat less. Using this standard assessment for SAD, you might reconsider whether you have a yearly mood cycle after all. The CDC telephone survey did not ask the usual SAD questions but relied on eight questions commonly used to screen for major depression. These questions ask about topics not covered in standard SAD assessments — hopelessness, lack of pleasure in activities, trouble concentrating — and concern the past two weeks rather than the past fifty-two. It is much easier to recall how you felt in the recent past than to remember how you felt last October. Our memories can smudge and blot over time, especially if we expect a certain pattern.

This introduces another problem with SAD studies: expectations. Even hearing about the “winter blues” in popular culture could plant confirmation biases, encouraging potential patients (or researchers) to find evidence of SAD whether it exists or not. Our preconceptions are always hard at work, so survey data collected without any mention of seasonal mood disorders is a safer bet for avoiding biases. A person experiencing major depression episodes in the winter might need therapy for SAD or they might need therapy to cope with holiday-time stresses.

Other studies, particularly in Norway, have also called into question how seasonal depression is measured. If changes in sunlight or other qualities of winter can provoke seasonal depression, then why doesn’t the Norwegian winter, with severely shortened daylight, report higher rates? Perhaps Norwegian culture helps ward off any negative effects of winter, or perhaps SAD is not what we think it is.

A massive telephone survey of the US regarding depression is a valuable opportunity to track SAD in the population, but lack of evidence for SAD does not prove SAD isn’t real. We do know that light orchestrates effects on our health. Melatonin and other hormones certainly respond to light, and there is a part of the brain which takes inputs from the eyes not to see but to keep the circadian beat. It is possible that seasonal depression is exceedingly rare and hard to detect at the population level — some evidence for that comes from a 1998 US survey of 8000 people. It is also possible that cases of SAD are mood disorders which do not share many symptoms with depression. Understandably, people who believe they have SAD remain doubtful, especially those who see improvement after light therapy. If light boxes or light visors can alleviate mood disturbances with no serious side effects, there will continue to be investigations into light therapies as well as other SAD-specific treatments. For now, though, we can’t quite reconcile seasonal affective disorder with the stability of the national mood.

Tanning and Depression

Many believe they look better with a tan, but the risk of developing skin cancer keeps most of us out of the sun without plenty of sun block and away from indoor tanning salons. There are some young women who appear to be addicted to indoor tanning beds, however, and depression may be one of the reasons.

More than one in five young white women, who used a tanning bed at least once within the last year, showed signs of addiction to indoor tanning, a recent study from researchers at Georgetown University found. Young women who were addicted to tanning were three times more likely to have symptoms of depression compared to those who were not addicted.

Young women who were addicted to tanning were three times more likely to have symptoms of depression compared to those who were not addicted.

For tanning addicts, becoming aware of the risk of skin cancer may not be enough. “The intervention model needs to go beyond informing about risks and include treatment of depressive symptoms,” Darren Mays, corresponding author on the study, told TheDoctor. ADVERTISEMENT The researchers analyzed data submitted online from 389 non-Hispanic, white women, aged 18 to 30. The participants who were addicted to indoor tanning reported stronger opioid-like reactions to indoor tanning and placed a higher value on the perceived benefits of indoor tanning, compared to those who are not addicted. They also had lower self-esteem, were more concerned about their appearance and likelier to screen positively for symptoms of depression than those who were not addicted.

One theory about why people with depression may become addicted to indoor tanning is that the high doses of ultraviolet (UV) radiation emitted from tanning beds causes the release of β-endorphins, which may produce an opioid-like response, said Mays, an assistant professor of oncology at Georgetown University School of Medicine. β-endorphins are natural mood enhancers, so people may experience something similar to a ‘runner’s high’ after tanning. It could serve to relieve depression much the way light treatment for seasonal affective disorders does.

“The fact that women with depressive symptoms were three times more likely to be addicted to indoor tanning really stood out to us,” Mays said. The research results suggested a few questions worth further study — are people who experience anxiety and depression drawn to tanning beds as a form of self-treatment? And is it possible that stress and depression are the result of a withdrawal-type phenomenon when people stop using tanning beds?

The study is published in Cancer, Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention.

People suffering from seasonal affective disorder report feeling better after a visit at the tanning salon for a tanning bed session.

With the arrival of the cold season, besides cold-driven nuisance, some persons experience drawbacks regarding the general state, lack of energy and depression of unknown origin. It was scientifically ascertained that the lack of light favors the production of melatonin by the pineal gland, a hormone inducing sleep. That is why, during the cold seasons when days are shorter and the sunlight is scarce, we often feel sleepy or drowsy. Also, even during spring and summer, if the tendency is to keep most of the time indoors at home or at the office, the effect may be similar, though not as severe.

Well, if drowsiness were the only impact generated by season changes, things would be easier to solve (with a little coffee maybe!). The problem is that melatonin secretion is synchronized with the production of a neurotransmitter, serotonin, which is involved in several physiological processes such as temperature, blood-pressure regulation and in neuropsychological functions such as appetite, memory and mood. The two do not work together at the same time. When melatonin is secreted, serotonin production is inhibited. Lack of serotonin causes disorders such as chronic fatigue syndrome and reflects its effects on mood also, triggering depression in some persons.

Melatonin is active at night and serotonin is active in the daytime. Also, there is the age factor that contributes to the balance of the two chemicals: the secretion of melatonin decreases with age. There has been established that the link between serotonin and melatonin along with their dependence on the body clock may explain the depression experienced by the people suffering from the disorder called Seasonal Affective Disorder – SAD. Depression, sleep problems, weight gain, anxiety, joint pain, irritability, stress, headaches are some of the symptoms that may appear when we suffer from SAD.

The problem is primarily caused by the lack of sunlight. It has been scientifically proven that sunlight favors increase in serotonin levels and favors vitamin D accumulation. Besides having anti-osteoporotic, immunomodulatory, anticarcinogenic, antipsoriatic, antioxidant properties, vitamin D is also a mood-modulator.

UV rays exposure favors vitamin D synthesis in the skin. That is why persons who go to tanning salons have noticed mood improvement and keep the habit in order to maintain the state of well-being. However, it is common knowledge that the effects of the UV exposure are not always the most desirable ones. If going to tanning salons becomes a habit, then recurrent, prolonged UV exposure may result in consequences such as premature skin aging and eventually skin cancer.

Light therapy represents a way to treat SAD. Light operates on the body in two ways: through skin impact or by entering your eyes. Only UV light has effects on the skin, while the light that has effects by entering your eyes needs not be UV, it just has to be bright. Its energizing effect comes from the fact that it stimulates the production of serotonin. The simplest way to get enough bright light is to spend an hour a day or more outdoors, where the light levels range from 1,000 to 50,000 lux or more, compared to room lighting, which is about 50-200 lux.

If your schedule or the weather does not permit it, an alternative is to purchase a light therapy device. For optimum effects, the light source either has to be very bright – 5,000 lux or more – or it has to be in a particular spectrum – around 460 nanometers, which is in the blue range. According to new research, blue range light will provide benefits even if at a dimmer level. Most companies producing light bulbs make full spectrum lights that may successfully replace sunlight.

Yet, there are side effects that bright artificial light may induce, namely it may interfere with sleep (especially when exposure is made in the evening hours) or even trigger in some people a mania – condition called bipolar disorder (known as manic depression).

The safest remains the natural outdoor light, on condition that UV protection is used.

Last Updated on December 5, 2019

Phototherapy vs. Tanning

Posted By AllPhysicianJobs.com on Mar 1, 2017 |

Many Dermatologists and Psychiatrists prescribe phototherapy to patients for numerous conditions. Skin conditions such as psoriasis, vitiligo, scleroderma, and others can be helped by phototherapy. It can also be highly effective in treating seasonal affective disorder (SAD) as well as in cosmetic procedures. Patients sometimes take it upon themselves to get treatment from tanning beds, also known as indoor tanning. As a physician, it is important that you educate them on the risks and differences between phototherapy and tanning.

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Phototherapy (light therapy) exposes the skin to UV light on a regular basis under medical supervision. There are many different types of therapy that use varying ultraviolet lights. UVB, Psoralen + UVA (PUVA), and laser treatments are all examples of light therapy used in treating psoriasis. Light Boxes are the main form of treatment for seasonal affective disorder.

Ultraviolet B (UVB)

UVB treatment can slow the growth of affected skin cells by exposing the skin to artificial UVB for a length of time on a regular schedule. The two types of UVB are broadband and narrow band. Narrow band UVB lights release a smaller range of ultraviolet light compared to broadband.

UVB light can take a bit longer to treat psoriasis, and it can worsen before it starts to improve. The benefit of having UVB light therapy in a medical setting is that the amount of light administered can be reduced and monitored to best fit each individual. UVB is known to work better than UVA light in treating psoriasis.

Psoralen + Ultraviolet A (UVA)

UVA can penetrate deeper into the skin than UVB, and Psoralen makes skin more sensitive to light. Normal sessions with UVA alone take about 20 minutes, while UVA + Psoralen takes about 2 minutes. This method is usually only used when the psoriasis is disabling and other treatments have proved unsuccessful.

Light Boxes

People with SAD start to feel signs of depression when the days get shorter and the nights are longer. The feelings can fade once spring rolls around, but many psychiatrists suggest light boxes as a form of treatment. Although not appropriate for everyone, this form of light therapy involves sitting close to a special “light box” for 30 minutes a day.

Most boxes provide white light at 10,000 lux (a measure of light intensity), while a bright sunny day is usually 50,000 lux or more. The normal indoor lighting is about 100x less bright than the light box intensity. Researchers are working on improving light boxes by having boxes that simulate sunrise, gradually increasing intensity.

Some people cannot handle the bright light, and some need brighter light. Your patient should only be using light boxes if you warrant it safe for them. All treatment options should be reviewed, and it is important to note that light boxes are not FDA approved.

Light boxes for SAD are designed to filter out UV lights making them less harmful to skin and eyes. There light boxes are designed to treat skin conditions, which will have more UV light and can be more dangerous. Be sure that your patient is buying and using the correct type.

Indoor Tanning

Most tanning beds radiate UVA light, not UVB. So if your patient is thinking about using one to treat psoriasis, it may not be beneficial. Tanning is the main cause of skin cancer, and using indoor tanning as a form of phototherapy can be even more dangerous.

Patients might be drawn to use indoor tanning because they’ll benefit from a nice tanned look, and think it is safe because it is controlled. Sure, you can set a timer for it to turn off, but indoor tanning does not control the intensity or administration like physicians subscribing phototherapy can.

Patients with SAD may also look to regularly tanning at a salon in order to get the happy feeling and warmth that sunlight gives them. While sunlight can certainly give those feelings, the majority of light boxes designed for SAD do not involve UV lights. So really, it could be more damaging than beneficial.

Outdoor Tanning

Both UVA and UVB are present in natural sunlight, making it a better option than indoor tanning, but still dangerous. It can be hard for people to limit their time in the sun and adequately protect their skin, so be sure to address this with patients. Laying out all day in the sun is not healthy for the skin, and may not give the treatment results patients are looking for.

Short and regular exposures to sunlight are recommended, starting with 5-10 minutes of sun daily. Patients need to wear sunscreen on areas unaffected by skin conditions. If the skin can handle it, slowly increase exposure. Make sure to check if your patient is developing any signs of skin damage, and let them know immediately. Also, inform them if any topical medications they are using that would increase the risk of sunburn.

Always keep in mind the dangers of any UV light exposure, and be sure your patient understands the risk of any form of phototherapy.

Will Tanning Beds Ease Symptoms of Seasonal Depression?

Q1. I’ve heard about light therapy. My depression is worse in the fall and winter when we change the clocks back. Would going to the standard tanning spots give the right kind of light to help produce results similar to the sun for depression management?

No, they wouldn’t. The kind of bright light therapy that is used to treat seasonal depression is different than what is available in a tanning bed. Also, it is necessary for the bright light exposure to pass through your eyes in order to reach your brain, which of course would be very dangerous in a tanning bed.

For many people with seasonal depression, about 30 minutes of daily exposure to about 10,000 lux of bright, full-spectrum white light has a definite therapeutic effect. They are a little inconvenient (for example, you have to sit in front of the light box for a certain amount of time each day, usually in the morning before the winter sun rises). But if it works, it is a one-time cost, and the light box should work for years thereafter.

You can find commercially manufactured light therapy “boxes” that have been engineered exactly for this purpose on the Web. They typically cost about $250 to $350. You might also find a used one online for a lower price through eBay or a similar site.

Q2. Three years ago I had sexual contact with a very promiscuous man. I suffered anxiety, shame, grief, and depression from this, as I was trying to wait until I was married before I was intimate. I developed what I thought was a yeast infection but I tested negative. I went on to be tested for every sexually transmitted disease (STD) and have continued to do so for three years but nothing is showing up. I suffer from periods of great fatigue, chills, low fever, and sometimes small sores on my gums that last a day. I thought it may be herpes, but my doctors all said I would have noticeable sores. They referred me to “talk therapy,” saying I’m depressed — well, yeah, if I have a communicable disease, duh! Even a genital dermatologist said it was probably depression because it can cause skin sensations. What do you think? Is it possible that all these symptoms are related to depression?

— Tiffany, Minnesota

Tiffany, let me begin by saying that you have done the correct thing by going to your physician to rule out any medical explanation for your symptoms. I can imagine that it has been frustrating and frightening to not find answers to your questions. Fundamental to your experience and the essence of your question is: Can physical symptoms be caused by mental and/or emotional turmoil? The answer is definitely yes. Research in the areas of mind-body medicine and psychoneuroimmunology clearly demonstrate the impact of mental and emotional stress on the functioning of the cardiac, respiratory, and immune systems in particular.

However, that said, it’s not clear whether your symptoms are a result of an infectious illness, your psychological state, or perhaps a combination of the two. I suggest that, if and when you experience the physical symptoms (fatigue, fever, chills or sores) again, visit your primary care physician immediately to let him or her evaluate you. You may have a viral illness that is not considered an STD per se that might still need diagnosing.

In the meantime, it is clear from your brief description that you have agonized over your sexual behavior and have carried that pain for over three years. Although your mental and emotional anguish is apparent, without more information, I can not be sure whether you are experiencing clinical depression, an anxiety disorder, or perhaps a somatoform disorder. Regardless of the diagnosis, the referral to “talk therapy” is quite appropriate. I would strongly encourage you to contact a licensed psychologist or counselor who is trained in behavioral medicine, health psychology, or mind/body medicine. He or she can assess your circumstances, determine an accurate diagnosis, and begin the process to help you move forward. In my practice, it is not uncommon for me to see patients who have suffered needlessly their entire lives due to grief, shame, and regret related to past experiences. I hope that you will find the help you need in order to avoid a similar fate.

Q3. I’m fatigued all the time, and I never feel like doing anything. Sometimes I feel like I’m not in my body, which leads me to panic and my heart to beat fast. I can’t control my diabetes, and I’m getting bad grades in school. When I look in the mirror, I feel like there’s no hope. Could these be symptoms from my hypothyroid disorder, or am I depressed?

It certainly sounds like you may be depressed, whether or not your hypothyroid disorder is in control. People with thyroid disease are at somewhat greater risk to develop depression. The thyroid gland secretes hormones that control metabolism. And when the thyroid gland is underactive, as in your case, your body’s metabolism slows down, and you can feel symptoms similar to depression.

However, most importantly for you, it is adversely affecting your school work and your health, and you are feeling hopeless. So please talk to your doctor as soon as possible to confirm the diagnosis and begin the most appropriate treatment. You could feel better in a matter of a few weeks.

Learn more in the Everyday Health Depression Center.

Ah, October. What a beautiful month to enjoy the changing of the leaves and your own pigmentation! Pigmentation? Yes, pigmentation! As you all know, as August comes to a close, so do our days at the beach basking in the sun. As autumn rolls around, our crisp, bronze outer layer converts to a ghostly white.

Depression runs rampid during the winter months. According to CNN, about 15% of the U.S. population experiences Seasonal Affective Disorder during the winter months. This disease can be caused by a lack of natural sunlight, which is said to increase Vitamin D which promotes serotonin levels. What is serotonin, you ask? As defined by Medical News Today, serotonin is a neurotransmitter that is “responsible for maintaining mood balance.” It is known to calm anxieties and increase happiness within the human mind.

HealthGuidance released information regarding individuals who used tanning beds and also suffered from SAD. This prescription is known as light therapy. “UV rays exposure favors vitamin D synthesis in the skin. That is why persons who go to tanning salons have noticed mood improvement and keep the habit in order to maintain the state of well-being,” stated the article.

It was no surprise, however, that HG was not able to supply statistical evidence. The main reasoning behind this is because people believe the “bad” parts of UV ray exposure outweigh the “good” benefits.

The National Skin Care Foundation provided a wealth of information and clarified why UV exposure is definitely not the answer to curing SAD. “Using indoor UV tanning beds to alleviate SAD has been linked with tanning addiction and seriously increases skin cancer risk,” said Perry Robins, MD, President of The Skin Cancer Foundation. “There are ways to ward off symptoms of SAD without compromising your health, such as receiving light therapy from a visible light box and adjusting aspects of your lifestyle, including your sleeping pattern, diet and physical activity,” (skincancer.org). This article also explained that tanning can become highly addictive and just one trip to the salon can increase skin cancer probability to 20%.

After much research, I discovered that tanning beds are often misconceived as a legitimate cure for low serotonin levels. In reality, most doctors recommend a form of visible light, as previously stated because the risk of UV ray exposure is just too dangerous. Light therapy, as described by Andrew Weil M.D., works in 80% of patients. The light enters through the eyes, which UV rays cannot do, unless you are willing to put your eyesight at GREAT risk.

The CDC offers alternative and easy habit changes to deal with Seasonal Affective Disorder. Getting up earlier in the morning and taking a simple stroll outside will allow your body to be exposed to natural light. Relaxation and enough sleep are also key factors.

Overall, SAD can be cured without the risk of tanning beds. So next time you reach for your tanning lotion to fix your health, remember its not all “sunshine” and rainbows.

livelinks

Those looking to treat Seasonal Affective Disorder may be tempted to use indoor ultraviolet tanning devices, but they do not successfully treat SAD.

Indoor tanning won’t cure Seasonal Affective Disorder

As the winter months stretch on, those looking to treat Seasonal Affective Disorder may be tempted to use indoor ultraviolet tanning devices. Not only is indoor tanning a dangerous habit, it does not successfully treat SAD. Light therapy, an effective treatment for SAD, acts through the eyes and relies on visible light whereas the dangerous UV radiation emitted by tanning beds is invisible light.

SAD is a form of depression believed to be caused by a hormonal imbalance that is commonly triggered during the shorter days of winter. Levels of melatonin, a sleep-related hormone, in the body are generally higher at night and lower in the morning. For people with SAD, however, the cycle is often delayed, and melatonin levels remain elevated into the morning, causing them to oversleep or leaving them fatigued. Meanwhile, the brain’s internal clock relies on early morning light to keep circadian rhythms in sync with local time, but the late sunrises of winter deny our bodies that essential signal. Depression can result when we have to keep waking up while it is still dark.

In one study, 80 percent of frequent indoor tanners reported symptoms of SAD, and investigators speculated that some tanners use UV-emitting tanning beds to try to alleviate symptoms. But using indoor UV tanning beds seriously increases skin cancer risk. The dangers of indoor tanning are well documented: People who first use a tanning bed before age 35 increase their risk for melanoma, one of the most dangerous forms of skin cancer, by 75 percent. Women who have ever tanned indoors are six times more likely to be diagnosed with melanoma in their 20s than those who have never tanned indoors.

Here are some healthy alternatives to ward off symptoms of SAD.

Sit by a light box for 30 minutes each morning

A light box is a portable, visible light source that provides up to 10,000 lux, a measure of light’s intensity, and is up to 10 to 25 times as bright as ordinary lighting. A light box is equivalent to outdoor light about 40 minutes after sunrise and is beneficial in providing the body with enough visible light to decrease feelings of lethargy and fatigue by lowering the level of melatonin in the body. Choose a light box with 10,000 lux of illumination since those offering fewer lux are not as effective. It is also important to use a UV filter and look for soft, white lights when shopping for a light box in order to minimize both UV radiation and blue light, which can also harm the eyes. The light should project downward toward the eyes to minimize glare. There’s some evidence that visible light treatment may cause skin damage. If you use a light box, be sure to apply sunscreen beforehand and cover up with clothing.

Make sleep a priority

Adjust your schedule to fit in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommended seven to nine hours of sleep each night, and wake up earlier to take advantage of natural light. Getting enough but not too much sleep is beneficial to both physical and mental health and helps stabilize mood and reduce anxiety. Establishing a nighttime routine to help you fall asleep at the same time each night is key.

Maintain a balanced diet

Eating a well balanced diet full of fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and calcium-rich foods while reducing your intake of foods high in fats, sodium, and added sugars can help improve your energy level and relieve stress.

Find time for fitness

Exercise has also been linked to improved mood and relieves feelings of stress and anxiety, which are both symptoms of SAD. The CDC recommends 150 minutes of moderately intense aerobic activity every week. It’s best to exercise outdoors before or after the hours between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., when the sun’s rays are strongest. Always practice proper sun protection. This includes covering up with clothing, including a wide-brimmed hat and UV-blocking sunglasses, and applying a broad-spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher to the entire body.

If you are experiencing symptoms associated with SAD, consult your physician before making any decisions. Symptoms of the disorder include hopelessness, anxiety, increased appetite, weight gain, a heavy feeling in the arms or legs, and loss of interest in activities.

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As the days grow shorter, are you worried about the onset of winter blues? Red light therapy is often used to counter Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Your health and mood are intricately tied to exposure to sunlight. For example, your serotonin levels (the hormone typically associated with elevating your mood) rise when you’re exposed to bright light. As the winter solstice marks a seasonal turning point with daylight getting incrementally longer from here until June, for people with seasonal affective disorder, it’s just another day of feeling lousy.

About SAD

People with this condition lose steam when the days get shorter and the nights longer. Symptoms of seasonal affective disorder include loss of pleasure and energy, feelings of worthlessness, inability to concentrate, and uncontrollable urges to eat sugar and high-carbohydrate foods. Although they fade with the arrival of spring, seasonal affective disorder can leave you overweight, out of shape, and with strained relationships and employment woes.

We don’t know exactly why seasonal affective disorder occurs. According to a review published in the current issue of American Family Physician, there are probably several different causes, including changes in the body’s natural daily rhythms (circadian rhythms), in the eyes’ sensitivity to light, and in how chemical messengers like serotonin function. Some people find that taking an antidepressant medication helps, yet a new unique approach is the use of light therapy.

The value of light

If lack of sunlight causes or contributes to seasonal affective disorder, then getting more light may reverse it. Bright light works by stimulating cells in the retina that connect to the hypothalamus, a part of the brain that helps control circadian rhythms. Activating the hypothalamus at a certain time every day can restore a normal circadian rhythm and thus banish seasonal symptoms.

Exercise and eat well

Exercise primarily works by helping to normalize your insulin levels while simultaneously boosting “feel good” hormones in your brain. Restoring health to your gut is also of prime importance. Your gut is literally your second brain and can significantly influence your mind, mood, and behavior. Your gut actually produces more mood-regulating serotonin than your brain does. To optimize your gut microbiome, eat fresh food and be sure to include traditionally fermented foods such as fermented vegetables, raw milk kefir, kombucha, and others. Ideally, you’ll want to start trading out all processed foods for whole foods and cook from scratch.

If you’re interested in trying this treatment, get advice from your doctor and give us a call today to have your questions answered.

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