Winter Blues: Everything You Need to Know to Beat Seasonal Affective Disorder

By Norman E. Rosenthal | Go to book overview

THREE

How Seasonal Are You?

“It is certainly very cold,” said Peggotty.
“Everybody must feel it so.”
“I feel it more than other people,” said Mrs. Gummidge.

—CHARLES DICKENS, David Copperfield

Most people are seasonal, though some are more so than others. In fact, my colleagues and I at the NIMH were astonished to find that over ninety percent of all those who responded to a survey we conducted in Maryland, about thirty-nine degrees north, reported that they felt some difference in mood, energy, or behavior with the change of seasons. In this chapter, I will show you how to determine how seasonal you are by means of the Seasonal Pattern Assessment Questionnaire (SPAQ), which we developed for research purposes but which turns out to be very easy to administer and interpret once you have the key. Using the SPAQ, researchers have established that seasonality is actually a genetically transmitted trait and have estimated the prevalence of SAD and the winter blues in many parts of the world. (See Chapter 4.)

To understand the pattern and extent of your seasonality, complete the SPAQ, shown in Figure 1. To obtain a stable and accurate assessment, you will have to think back over a period of time—say, three years—when you have lived continuously in one climatic region. Since

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