My Experience With Seasonal Affective Disorder
On July 21st, 2014 I was interviewed at Queen Mary, University of London. I was asked about my travels to the United States and how I came to study seasonal affective disorder and light therapy for its treatment. Below is the story of how my personal experience influenced my choice of research.
When I moved to the United States from South Africa I arrived in New York City in 1976. I expected a lot of things to be different, but the one thing I did not really count on, which turned out to be one of the biggest differences was the light. In Johannesburg, which is much closer to the equator than New York City is, the days in winter were not that much shorter than the days in summer.
When I arrived in New York City the days were long, it was the middle of the summer and I seemed to have boundless energy. New York seemed like just the place to be. After the daylight savings time changed, suddenly a sort of fear hit me. I remember clearly that first day when the afternoon was dark so early. It was not long after before winter was in full effect. Suddenly, I had a sluggishness and a lethargy. I had a difficulty creating and producing, which I had not experienced before. I thought, “what on earth is this?” Then, spring came and things improved unaccountably and I thought, “what was that fuss you were making during the winter, it’s not so bad?” This was an experience I had three years in a row through my residency.
When I got to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) I was interested in looking into researching mood disorders, biological cycles, circadian rhythms. Because of my own experience I gravitated toward a group that was studying these questions, as well as the possible role of light as a solution.
[2:09] Here is a video where I describe my story of seasonal affective disorder:
Wishing you Light and Transcendence,
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