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Seasonal Affective Disorder, or more commonly known as “SAD,” is a type of depression that often only appears during the fall/winter months for consecutive years. The symptoms of SAD are often the same as major depression but are classified as Seasonal Affective Disorder when it’s reoccurring annually around the same time.

What are the symptoms of SAD?

A major symptom of SAD is a depressive episode that lasts most days for almost the whole day, lasts for longer than two weeks, and impairs a person’s ability to perform at work, school, or in social relationships. You may experience weight changes, loss of appetite, trouble concentrating, irritability, or feeling useless and hopeless.

What causes SAD, and how can you treat it?

Based on research, SAD seems to be caused by the lack of sunlight during the fall and winter months. The lack of light disrupts the body’s natural sleep-wake patterns and disturbs neurotransmitter (dopamine, serotonin) functions. Research shows that women are more likely than men to develop SAD and experienced more frequently in younger adults. Seasonal Affective Disorder can be treated with Light Therapy, Medication, Psychotherapy, and a few other methods. It’s also recommended that time outdoors and exercising can help relieve some of the symptoms.

How Can I Support Someone with Seasonal Affective Disorder?

Seasonal Affective Disorder - Therapy
Image by Serena Wong from Pixabay

It’s important that no matter what your partner/friend/family member is going through, the best thing you can do is ask them what they need from you. Not everyone will want someone to work out with them or make sure they participate in their treatments. Sometimes, being there, being present, and only doing what the person needs can be helpful. If resources are available, always seek help from a professional. Sometimes CBT or other forms of Psychotherapy can provide individuals with tools to cope with their mental illness.

SAD affects 1 to 2% of the global population. If you’re struggling with your mental health, it’s important to seek out the appropriate resources. CAMH is a great place to go to find resources in Canada. What are your tips to get through the Fall and Winter seasons? Let us know in the comments.

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