Seasonal Affective Disorder

Have you ever felt a pressing feeling of gloom that indicates to you that winter is coming? Have you noticed that you are not as cheerful in the wintertime or that you find it harder to get moving in the morning? For some individuals, the change in weather affects their everyday functioning. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a type of depression which coincides with the pattern of the seasons, and is common among those living in harsh winter climates such as in Edmonton, Alberta (Canadian Mental Health Association, 2013).


Causes of Seasonal Affective Disorder:
So what causes Seasonal Affective Disorder? Some research has shown that SAD may be influenced by imbalances in certain brain chemicals, such as serotonin and melatonin (Magnusson & Boivin, 2003). Although everybody’s brain chemicals naturally vary somewhat with changing seasons, for individuals with SAD the effect may be more dramatic. Other research suggests that SAD may be caused by a disruption in our natural sleep cycle.


Symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder:
Symptoms of SAD are similar to other types of depression, but the distinguishing factor is the re-occurrence of the depressive symptoms with the return of winter. Symptoms may include decreased energy, fatigue, feelings of anxiety or despair, weight gain, change in appetite, oversleeping, lack of concentration, irritability and even avoidance of social situations (Canadian Mental Health Association, 2013).


Treatment for Seasonal Affective Disorder:
Light therapy is a common form of treatment for SAD, in which an individual sits in front of a special light box for 30-120 minutes per day to receive intense wavelengths of light (Magnusson & Boivin, 2003). The treatment is usually prescribed daily, for the duration of the winter or until the client is getting enough natural daylight. Your Edmonton psychologist may also offer psychotherapy options for SAD by focusing on coping skills and increasing stress management skills. The Canadian Mental Health Association suggests that exercise may also help to reduce stress and the overall impact of SAD symptoms.