Does winter have you feeling like...

Woman sitting, holding her legs and crying with a dark cloud over her head.

-- People illustrations by Storyset from Freepik

If you feel moody and listless every time winter rolls around, it's possible you have a form of depression called Seasonal Affective Disorder, also known as SAD.

What Is Seasonal Affective Disorder?

The main feature of SAD is that you notice that your mood shifts along with the calendar.

Chart: Symptoms:ranky, crave carbs and sweets, sad, lack of motivation, blah, tired, moody, want to stay in bed, depressed.

Who Gets SAD?

  • SAD is most common in regions of the world where light decreases during winter.

  • People who already suffer from depression may see their symptoms worsen when light decreases.

  • The majority (80%) of people who have SAD are women.

Chart depicting 80% women, 20% men.

In Canada, about 2-5% of the population have severe symptoms; 10-15% of the population have mild symptoms, and another 25-35% experience the "winter blues."

icon of Canada

Quiz

Who is more likely to experience Seasonal Affective Disorder?

Tom, a man who lives in Puerto Rico.

Gerta, a woman who lives in Alaska.

Why Does It Happen?

According to the Mayo Clinic: and NIMH

  1. The changes in seasons disrupt some people's biological clock ("circadian rythm").

    icon of clock

2. Certain chemicals in the body are affected and this can impact mood and behavior negatively.

icon of chemical combination

As a result of these chemical imbalances:

  • Serotonin, a brain chemical that affects mood, decreases.

  • Melatonin, a chemical that affects our sleep patterns and mood, increases.

icon of scale

Combat SAD

Hands forming a heart with sunlight streaming through

Light therapy is one of the best options!

It usually starts working within a few days to a few weeks.

  1. Use a light therapy lamp for 30-45 minutes each day.

  2. Try a dawn simulator, an alarm clock-type device that exposes you to gradual light as you wake in the morning.

  3. Make an effort to get outside or sit by a sunny window each day.

Other Helpful Actions

Action Changes Things

  • Self-care, such as a healthy diet and exercise, keeps your body strong.

  • Spending time with friends and loved ones can raise your spirits.

  • Psychotherapy (especially Cognitive Behavioral Therapy ) can help you identify and change negative thoughts and behaviors that may be making you feel worse.

  • Tryptophan, an over-the-counter supplement, helps promote depleted serotonin levels.

  • Consider taking prescription medication if your symptoms are moderate to severe. If taken before the symptoms appear , it can fend off SAD.

icon of people talking

Be sure to consult with your doctor or therapist to determine which treatment is best for you!

Take Action

For effective ways to alleviate the symptoms of SAD:

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This Byte has been authored by

MD

Mary Ellen D'Intino

Learning Designer