Is there A Link Between Eye Color and Seasonal Affective Disorder?

Everyone has ups and downs, good days and bad days. Sometimes you have longer periods of these cycles.  Sometimes you have entire seasons of downs, though, and that is often called “winter blues.” 

Also known as Seasonal Affective Disorder, the Winter Blues is a condition that affects hundreds of Americans every year. Basically, this is an emotional anomaly characterized by a depressive stage that starts to sink as the weather gets colder. Effectively it is a type of depression brought on by the winter. Those who experience it, tend to know when it is going to come and it is usually self-diagnosable, requiring no lab tests or examination.  The condition can last for several weeks or even several months of the winter season.  But it does not appear to affect the entire population evenly.

A recent study of Seasonal Affective Disorder (yes, it is also known as SAD) suggests that the condition appears to affect people with darker eyes than those with lighter eyes.  This means, then, if you have black or brown eyes, you may be more vulnerable to the dip in mood during the winter months. 

According to this study, melatonin is the culprit. The body uses melatonin to regulate mood and sleep.  Too much melatonin causes lethargy and depression (but not enough of it can lead to sleep issues).  Melatonin also seems to play a role in the way our eyes absorb light.  People with light eyes need less melatonin to process light, which means they have an easier time dealing with the darker winter months. Those with darker eyes, however, need more melatonin to process the fading light of winter; thus, darker-eyed folks are more vulnerable to SAD.

Symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder include not just your typical “depressive” bouts.  Those who are afflicted by SAD experience feelings of sadness, sure, but also things like social withdrawal, hopelessness, fatigue, and even weight gain for some people.  Fortunately, this type of depression tends to be relatively mild and, since it is related to seasonal changes, the feelings are usually temporary. Professional intervention can help manage the symptoms but so can lifestyle changes like getting regular exercise, adding certain healthy foods to your diet, and trying mediation or yoga. 

The results of this study have been published in the Open Access Journal of Behavioral Science and Psychology.

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