March 6, 2003 at 10:52 PM CST - Updated June 20 at 5:58 PM
The Body Blues
Most of us feel sad or blue from time to time. Some people get depressed at certain times of the month
(such as before the onset of a menstrual period) or year (winter depression, or seasonal affective disorder). Others experience a mild form of depression year-round. In some cases, patients have a hard time staying focused on the job, completing assignments, performing household chores, or maintaining relationships. These are signs of a condition called the "Body Blues", or vegetative depressive symptoms.
Symptoms of the Body Blues are more common in women than in men. Patients may experience an increased appetite, cravings for carbohydrates, and weight gain. Despite having a big appetite, they are often sluggish and tired and complain about a lack of energy. They are often irritable and experience problems with sleep
(including daytime sleepiness), difficulties with concentration, anxiety, depression, and lack of interest in sex.
Treating the Body Blues
Patients with the Body Blues usually don’t meet the diagnostic criteria for clinical depression and may have difficulty getting a diagnosis and treatment. Now, a new program may help some of these patients get back on a happier track. The LEVITY program, developed at the University of Washington, has three main components – light, exercise, and vitamins. Light treatment has been an important part of therapy for seasonal affective disorder and other forms of mild depression. In the LEVITY program, participants are advised to create more natural environmental lighting and to get at least 20 minutes of bright light a day
(either with direct sunlight or a light therapy device). Twenty minutes of moderate intensity (such as a fast walk) exercise is also recommended, five days a week. A brisk outdoor walk provides both sunshine and exercise. The third component of the program is vitamins. Researchers have identified six key vitamins that play a role in mood - B-1, B-2, B-6, d, folic acid, and selenium. Women can purchase a combined supplement from the LEVITY program or purchase the vitamins separately from a pharmacy or health food store. Very specific amounts of the vitamins are recommended, so a standard multivitamin may not provide the right proportions (recommended amounts are 50 mg. of the B-vitamins, 400 IU of vitamin D, 400 mcg. of folic acid, and 200 mcg. of selenium).
LEVITY was tested on a group of more than 100 women aged 19 to 78. The researchers found after eight weeks, those receiving the intervention treatment had significantly improved mood, self-esteem, and well-being compared to those in the placebo group. Some people receiving the treatment saw results in just a few days.