Seasonal Non-Disorder:

Seasonal Non-Disorder: 

Dear Dr. Brilliant Cliché,

It’s early November and I am feeling tired and sluggish. The spring has gone out of my step and when I wake up, all I want is to go back to sleep. Is this depression?

I keep hearing about Seasonal Affective Disorder. Should I start antidepressants?

yours, Sluggish in November.

Dear Sluggish in November,

NO. The bruhaha over Seasonal Affective Disorder is for the benefit of the advertising industry. I also doubt very much that you have depression. What you are experiencing is seasonal, but it is a normal response to environmental changes. For some reason, our culture is in denial of it and has taken to calling it Seasonal Affective Disorder. A more accurate title might be Seasonal Non-Disorder. This time of year we all go into hibernation mode; it a natural response to the changes in light and climate. If we were following the normal cycle of the seasons, we would have been busily storing away food all summer preparing for the winter months. In early November, we would be getting ready to retire to our caves or farm houses, laying low until the thaw. The problem is that our modern life styles don’t reflect our genetic origins. Our current culture is in complete denial about the profound effect that the changes in season has on us. Not that this is necessarily bad, but it does have consequences, and one of those is that we tend to view our natural responses as ‘disorders’ and experience them as illness.

So, should you start antidepressants? NO! A little change in climate is a better prescription. The ideal remedy would be to visit Tahiti every 2 months but if that is not an option (as it isn’t for most of us) you can get yourself a light box. In order to have the desired effect, it must be 10,000 lux – this is the frequency of light which simulates the summer sun. Using it 15 to 30 min in the morning will reverse the hibernation your body is entering. The cheapest model I have yet to discover on the internet can be found at:

I keep one on my office desk at work. Not only has the spring come back into my step but I have also found that my need and tolerance for coffee has diminished greatly.

Dr. Brilliant Cliché.


About Dr. Brilliant Cliché

Dr. Brilliant Cliché and the Granny Dr. are a fictional web presence and advice blog. Together we offer a joint perspective that is deep but not academic, entertaining but not fluff, and educated yet street smart. By joining the internet community we hope to share thoughts and stimulate insightful conversation around pressing issues that affect us all. Looking forward to hearing your thoughts. (This is not a site for therapy nor does it intend to replace medical or other professional care. ) You can leave comments here or email The Dr. at and don’t forget to like us on facebook. Our facebook page is Dr. Brilliant Cliche
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7 Responses to Seasonal Non-Disorder:

  1. Fellow Hibernator says:

    Dear Doc,

    I got a light box for Christmas last year. The one I got was apparently easy to find at Costco. I really felt better just having it on. It’s great!

    I need to get it out again as the days are now so short!

    In this day and age there’s no time for caves. We must produce produce produce!

  2. Dana Ehren Spencer says:

    i was just two nights ago looking into ‘light boxes’; full spectrum lights. do they really work? *really*?! i work late night, making stuff and such, in a walk-in closet studio (literally), and i imagined 6 – 8 hours a night, on average, adding this type of ‘system’ to the lighting mix might be beneficial; i’m already perfunctorily seated there, as is, so why not was my thinking. if they do, might you recommend a particular brand or model? i looked at a unit by ‘verilux’, priced at roughly $200; can i do better for ≪‽‽

    • Dana Ehren Spencer says:

      oh…too…i agree, regarding ‘seasonal affective disorder’. i mean, really‽ we freeze (i do, at least). lower temperatures slow the movement of my elements. i took anti-depressants, on and off, for over a decade or more, but quit using them roughly 13 or so months ago. i’ve tried ’em all, truly. i feel, albeit a laymen to the areas of biophysics/psychology/psychiatry/physiology/psychopharmacology/etc., most of the time (and i DO mean *most*) i didn’t need those medications. despite a year facing my life’s GREATEST griefs (in adulthood), to date, i find i am better off (comparatively) without this class of medications, formulaically. dr. brilliant cliché — i agree, almost entirely wholeheartedly, with your thoughts regarding, what you term seasonal non-disorder, overall (and so applicable to myself), but i fear the consequences wrought by broad generalizations and/or stereotypical reasonings, proposed, to in fact be *entirely* true for all of us…except. where does an individual patients comorbidities fit, or play, into your thoughts?

      • Ah very good question. Just because seasonal mood variation is a normal phenomena it doesn’t mean that other factors cant be occurring as well. Normal seasonal variation might as well make underlying other issues worse. In other words if the light box doesn’t help see your Dr. Get an evaluation. Suicidal ideation is not part of the normal seasonal cycle. hibernating animals do not want to die, just sleep. If there is any suicidal ideation get yey to the emergency room ASAP.

        Dr. Brilliant Cliché

    • Check out the link on the original essay – that one listed is $99 with $14.00 shipping, I have not found one cheaper to date. If you find a better priced one in your googling let me know. I have bought this one and use it myself and yes it does work for SEASONAL NON DISORDER. Studies show it works for DSM4 SAD (seasonal affective disorder) and possibly mild depression. It does not replace the need for antidepressants for most people who are clinically depressed. Nor does it replace the need for sleep or normal healthy sleep hygiene.
      Consistent 8hrs sleep per night at the same scheduled time every night is recommended although not realistic for most of us, and yes the box lets us cheat on this for a while.)

      Dr. Brilliant Cliché

  3. Dana Ehren Spencer says:

    thank you for your response! i reread the original essay, moments after my second comment, and saw that you had in fact recommended a very reasonably priced full-spectrum light box model. i felt a little silly upon realization you had essentially already answered my question regarding your model recommendation(s) and comparative affordability. at present, your recommendation still offers the best quality and price (additionally, this company/model offers excellent, easy to follow technical data and supportive information regarding the light’s specs and the known, and hypothesized, benefits of using such a home therapy product); i believe i just might be ordering one for myself…tonight!! i’ll follow up with a pix of me using it (or *better*) once it arrives. wonderful recommendation and selection! thank you, again!
    with regards to my question regarding sad (proposed as a non-disorder) and comorbidity with more serious (*real*) illness, i appreciate the purity — honest — i see through your advice. thank you, for that. very caring. my personal epic battle between sleep and wake wages on; perhaps one day the two shall reach an impasse and mutually ascribe for the best possible terms of treaty, for my health’s sake, at least. ha! we’ll see. otherwise, your advice is impressive and solid. thanks dr. cliché!!

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