We were blessed with a beautiful summer here in Ontario, which makes the inevitable start of winter a tough pill to swallow.
And while cold temperatures combined with shorter days can irk even the toughest Canadians on occasion, some people struggle intensely when the mercury takes a dip.
I’m speaking today about Seasonal Affective Disorder.
UNDERSTANDING SEASONAL AFFECTIVE DISORDER
Seasonal Affective Disorder, commonly known as S.A.D., is a type of depression linked to changes in the weather that typically sets in during the fall and winter months.
Research suggests S.A.D. is caused by fluctuations in sunlight that can disrupt a person’s biological clock and lead to feelings of sadness and depression. Lack of sunlight is also believed to impact important brain chemicals, like serotonin and dopamine, that are directly linked to behaviour, cognition and mood.
WHAT ARE THE SIGNS OF S.A.D. AND WHO IS MOST AT RISK?
Symptoms of S.A.D. generally turn “on” and “off” at similar times each year and can range in severity from behavioural to physical. People suffering from S.A.D. may notice a drop in energy levels, changes in mood, appetite or sleep patterns, difficulty concentrating and an overall sense of sadness that lasts for days or weeks on end.
Studies show women and young peopleare most at risk for developing S.A.D. It’s also more common for people with a family history of the condition and those living in places with major swings in daylight hours throughout the year (i.e., people living far north or far south of the equator).
STRATEGIES AND TREATMENT
While we can’t change the weather or the hours of sunlight in a day, we can change how we cope when the seasons turn.
With daylight savings and the start of colder temperatures, it’s clear that seasonal change is upon us. Be on alert for signs of S.A.D. and consider the above strategies to help yourself or your loved ones overcome it.
Lindsay Ross, MSW RSW, is a clinical social worker in private practice in Toronto, Ontario.