Seasonal Affective Disorder

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD for short) is a type of depression that follows a seasonal pattern, meaning, the symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder are more commonly felt during the winter months when the days are shorter and accompanied with lower levels of sunlight during the day. This type of depression is therefore felt most highly during the months of December, January and February- and individuals start feeling changes in their moods and behaviours during late September or early November.

Seasonal Affective Disorder is accompanied with symptoms such as lower levels of energy during the winter months, a tendency to sleep more, a loss of interest in daily activities or activities that one may usually enjoy, irritability, and a low mood. While SAD is a common type of depression, usually felt in people living in areas where the winter months bring very harsh weather conditions, the reason behind why many individuals feel seasonal depression is still unclear.

Some theories include the effect that sunlight has on the hypothalamus of the brain, as light stimulates the hypothalamus and a decrease in the amount of sunlight decreases stimulation of the hypothalamus which causes this type of depression during the winter months. The lack of light is thought to effect:

  1. The production of the hormone melatonin
  2. The production of the hormone serotonin
  3. The body’s circadian rhythm.

As with any type of depression, SAD can be difficult to live with- however, it can be easily treated with the proper therapy and consultation from your doctor. Counselling sessions are important to help alleviate the feelings associated with SAD- the amount of sessions can increase or decrease depending on how much they are needed. Furthermore, preventative measures, such as engaging in things that would normally make you feel happy, can help to decrease these feelings of sadness associated with Seasonal Affective Disorder. These preventative measures can be helpful when they are being actively worked on before the peak winter months begin.

It is important to not dismiss your emotions or moods as ‘just feeling tired’ and get the proper help that is needed to combat this type of depression, and make it easier to live through the winter months.