An introduction to combating SAD.

If you’ve ever experienced drastic mood changes or a sudden sense of depression during the winter or fall months, you may be one of nearly 1 million Canadians dealing with Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD. 

SAD is a form of temporary depression that’s related to changes in the seasons, and more specifically, to reduced exposure to natural light (i.e., sunlight). SAD tends to affect people more in the fall and winter months, especially in areas that are farther from away from the equator where there are fewer hours of sunlight during winter. The most difficult months for people suffering from SAD tend to be January and February, but most individuals report that symptoms begin to taper off with the arrival of spring and longer daylight. 

Read on to discover what causes SAD, what its signs and symptoms are, and what steps you can take to combat SAD if you think you have it.

What causes SAD?

Research shows that SAD is linked to biochemical imbalances in the brain brought on by reduced exposure to sunlight in winter. As seasons change, people experience a shift in their biological clock and circadian rhythms, which can cause you to feel drained of energy and out of sync with your daily routine. Reduced sunlight can also create a drop in serotonin (a brain chemical that affects mood) and disrupt the body’s melatonin levels, which plays a role in your mood and sleep cycle.  

SAD affects women more frequently than men and is more commonly diagnosed in younger adults. However, there are several factors that can increase the likelihood of experiencing SAD, including:  

  • Family history
  • Having major depression or bipolar disorder
  • Living far from the equator where sunlight hours are reduced in winter