By: Kayla Wright
It’s winter. The days have gotten shorter, the air has gotten colder and our moods have started to shift. We’re tired, we’re annoyed – and all we really want to do is hibernate.
It’s SAD time once again.
SAD – or Seasonal Affective Disorder – is a type of major depression defined by the onset of a certain time of year. It usually happens in the winter, which is why it’s often referred to as winter depression.
“Winter sucks,” said part-time photography student Candace Cossette.
“I’ll just put that right out there. It gets so dark so early, so that’s depressing.”
Cossette has never been diagnosed with the disorder, though she said she does get the “winter blues.”
“But I would self-diagnose myself with SAD,” said Cossette.
Mind your mind, an online resource for youth, describes four main features of SAD:
-Recurrent major depressive episodes which occur around the same time ever year. Usually it will start in September-October and end in March-April.
-Full remission of symptoms during the off-season; from May-August
-There are more seasonal depressive episodes than not during the span of one’s lifetime.
-Episodes occur in at least two consecutive years.
Symptoms include change in appetite – cravings of sweet and starchy foods, weight gain, fatigue, decreased energy, increased sleep, difficulty concentrating, avoiding social situations, irritability and feelings of anxiousness and despair.
The Canadian Mental Health Association says, “Research in Ontario suggests that between two per cent and three per cent of the general population may have SAD. Another 15 per cent have a less severe experience described as the ‘winter blues.’”
SAD can sometimes affect children and teenagers, however is more commonly found in people over the age of 20, says the Canadian Mental Health Association. In addition, rates increase with age until about 50 and then decreases.
It’s also more common in women than in men with a ratio of 1.8 to one per cent.
Should you experience changes in your mood, sleep or appetite during the SAD on-season you should seek professional help.
The Canadian Mental Health Association says treatment for those who experience mild symptoms include spending more time outdoors during the day to receive as much sunlight as possible.
Exercise will also help relieve stress, build energy and increase your physical and mental health.
And, if you can, vacationing in a warm, sunny destination can temporarily relieve symptoms.
For those who suffer from severe symptoms of SAD should seek further professional help – perhaps from a counsellor.
Anti-depressant medications will also help, but should only be used if prescribed.
For more information contact Algonquin College’s Counselling Services or visit www.mindyourmind.ca/help/facts-a-symptoms/seasonal-affective-disorder?start=2. com