Treatments Available for Seasonal Affective Disorder

By McPherson, Laurie | Winnipeg Free Press, November 15, 2013 | Go to article overview

Treatments Available for Seasonal Affective Disorder


McPherson, Laurie, Winnipeg Free Press


Manitoba has a reputation for being one of the sunniest provinces in Canada.

But when November rolls around all that seems to change. As the days get shorter and colder, it can feel like the darkness is closing in.

Not surprisingly, this sudden change in our environment can lead to mood changes. For most people, these changes are mild and might result in a few days of irritability or sleep disruption. But for others, the changes can be significant and might result in disruptions of daily life over the winter months, sometimes referred to as the "winter blues."

For a small percentage of people, seasonal mood changes can become a type of clinical depression known as seasonal affective disorder or SAD. Seasonal mood changes are thought to be linked to a reduction in sunlight which, in turn, disrupts the body's internal clock and the production of serotonin and melatonin, hormones that have several important functions including the regulation of sleep and mood.

According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, SAD affects up to three per cent of the population, while a milder form of "winter blues" may affect as much as 15 per cent of the population. Those who experience winter blues might notice changes in their eating and sleeping routines. Other common symptoms include irritability, anxiety, lack of energy, fatigue, lack of interest in activities, a craving for sweets and starchy foods, or changes in weight.

Mild symptoms can be managed with small changes to your lifestyle. But when these changes severely disrupt your ability to function at work and home, it is important to seek medical advice. Your doctor will be able to assess your symptoms and also rule out any underlying causes such as thyroid dysfunction, anemia or other conditions.

Seasonal depression most often occurs in the fall and abates in the spring, so people are only affected by symptoms during the winter months. For a diagnosis of SAD, there must be a seasonal pattern which has occurred over at least two years. SAD tends to occur more frequently in adults, is identified more often in women than men, and is also thought to run in families. People suffering from SAD might also have pronounced feelings of sadness, guilt and hopelessness. They can also feel irritable and tense and tend to isolate themselves, withdrawing from relationships and their usual social activities. …

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Treatments Available for Seasonal Affective Disorder
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