As the winter months begin, the days become shorter and the weather colder. This means less sunshine and fewer opportunities to spend time outside. Many people find that their mood and energy levels are affected by this change in weather. For some, these seasonal changes have such a dramatic effect on their overall well-being that they may be diagnosed with “seasonal affective disorder,” a type of depression.
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD), also known as the “winter blues”, is a type of major depressive disorder that occurs seasonally, typically beginning in fall and continuing through the winter months. Although SAD usually occurs in the winter, there is another form that affects people in the summer, which usually begins in the spring. A person is diagnosed with SAD when they have reoccurring depression during the same season for at least two years. About 2-3% of Canadians will experience SAD in their lifetime.
People with SAD typically have unbalanced serotonin levels, a neurotransmitter that is responsible for regulating mood. Weather is a key factor for people who have SAD because the decrease in sunlight during the winter months has been linked to a decrease in serotonin activity, which can cause depression. This change in weather also increases melatonin activity, a hormone that causes sleepiness, lethargy and tiredness – it plays a role in our sleep and wake cycles.
Read more about Seasonal Affective Disorder:
Visit the information page Seasonal Affective Disorder by the Canadian Mental Health Association.
Seasonal Affective Disorder: An Overview of Assessment and Treatment Approaches is an article that provides a detailed explanation of SAD, its symptoms and common treatments.
Don’t be Sad: How to beat seasonal affective disorder offers more information about the disorder and strategies for avoiding the winter blues.
Fraser Health Authority’s article, 10 ways to beat the winter blahs provides an overview on seasonal affective disorder and tips on how to reduce symptoms.
There are several common treatment options for seasonal affective disorder:
The Mood Disorders Association of British Columbia is a valuable resource offering support and education for people living with a mood disorder.
The study Seasonality in Seeking Mental Health Information on Google compared Google search results about mental illness across seasons in the United States and Australia. Results from this study show a higher number of searches seeking information about mental illness during the winter months.
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