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Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

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The winter months can be a difficult and trying time. The cold Canadian temperatures keep us tucked away indoors, limiting activities and exposure to sunlight. We start to get moody, restless, have low energy, and typically gain weight. While this may be called the “winter blues” by many, its clinical name is Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).    

Seasonal Affective Disorder is a type of depression related to season changes. Most SAD victims experience this disorder during winter months, onsetting in early autumn and retreating at the start of spring. People can experience SAD during the spring and summer seasons as well!

SAD Symptoms

The onset of SAD symptoms often occurs during the early winter months. Signs and symptoms of SAD may include:

  • Feeling sad/down for most of the day, every day
  • Loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed
  • Low energy/fatigue
  • Increase in sleep
  • Carbohydrate cravings that lead to overeating and weight gain
  • Hopelessness
  • Difficulty concentrating

 There are also specific symptoms for Fall & Winter/ Spring & Summer SAD. Click here to learn more.

 SAD Causes

  • Circadian rhythm disruption – reduced sunlight exposure disrupts the body’s internal clock and leads to depressive feelings.
  • Low Serotonin levels – reduced sunlight can cause a drop in serotonin, a hormone that stabilizes mood.
  • Changes in Melatonin levels – seasonality disrupts the body’s balance of melatonin, altering sleep and mood patterns.

Click here to learn about other potential causes.

 How to Prevent/Treat SAD

  • Phototherapy – bright light therapy using a special lamp
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
  • Antidepressant medication (when prescribed)
  • Spending time outdoors
  • Vitamin D supplementation