Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Moods that shift with the season and sun; how to recognize it and manage it
It was winter and Toronto was cold; so the professional forecasters decided to finally speak. But CBC reported they didn’t agree; Shubenacadie Sam in Nova Scotia said Spring would spring but Ontario’s Wiarton Willie said “6 more weeks of winter”. America’s most famous underground predictor, Punxsutawney Phil from Pennsylvania decided to agree with Willie. So people across the country were wondering, “Should we smile wide, hoping for an early spring, or should we be prepared for 6 more weeks of snow?”
But did you know there are people who are depressed when spring starts and some who don’t smile whenever there’s snow?
Seasonal Affective Disorder, aka SAD. It’s a mood disorder that prevents a person from experiencing a full, functional life year-round, a mental health disorder that comes with the changing of seasons, usually in winter, commonly known as “the Winter Blues”, sometimes occurring in late spring/early summer.
According to the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) symptoms include:
Its cause isn’t known but recent research has found that it may be linked low levels of melatonin (a hormone that regulates sleep) resulting from delayed circadian rhythms, or the body clock in the brain (found in the suprachiasmatic nucleus of the anterior hypothalamus) that regulates melatonin. According to Lorraine A. Sanassi, PA-C, MHS, author of Seasonal affective disorder: Is there light at the end of the tunnel? in Journal of American Academy of Physicians (Feb 2014), “circadian misalignment leads to disturbances in melatonin levels and longer periods of melatonin synthesis at night. Melatonin, the so-called circadian hormone, normally peaks in darkness and helps promote sleep. Patients with SAD may have more daytime melatonin, which contributes to the depressive symptoms of SAD”
Studies have also suggested that SAD is more common in Northern communities, people over the age of 20 and is more prevalent in women; Sanassi adds that SAD is underdiagnosed, causing patients to live a more morbid life.
SAD can be treated.
Patients with SAD find that flying south helps them relieve their symptoms. Others with mild symptoms have found that exposing themselves to as much sunlight as possible (using skylights, trimming branches away from windows, spending time outdoors) has helped. Exercising while exposing yourself to natural light is also advised.
If you’re experiencing extreme symptoms – thoughts of suicide or dramatic changes in sleep and appetite patterns, seek professional help from your family doctor or another medical practitioner; anti-depressants can be prescribed.
For more information check out the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA)
Edited; first published in Artichoke Magazine, March 2014, Volume 3, Issue 5, Page 36