Story Tools: PRINT | Text Size: S M L XL | REPORT TYPO | SEND YOUR FEEDBACK

In Depth

Mental health

Winter's SAD times

Last Updated January 22, 2008

Winter got you feeling like you don't want to get out of bed? That's probably nothing to worry about — unless you find your mood slipping around the time the clocks go back in October until they spring ahead in March.

You could be suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a form of depression that follows a seasonal pattern.

The Canadian Mental Health Association estimates that one to three per cent of Canadians suffer from cases of SAD that are bad enough to affect their ability to cope with life.

Of patients suffering from a major depression, 11 per cent are also likely to develop SAD as the longer daylight hours of spring and summer fade into autumn and winter's longer hours of darkness.

"As the days get shorter, you are more vulnerable," Dr Roger McIntyre, head of the mood disorders unit at the University Health Network in Toronto, told CBC News. "It is not the cold weather."

SAD was recognized as a disorder in the early 1980s, but researchers have been aware of its symptoms for 150 years. One of the problems with diagnosing SAD is that its symptoms are similar to other types of depressions. Those symptoms include:

  • Loss of pleasure in activities.
  • Persistent sad, anxious or "empty" mood.
  • Irritability and desire to avoid social contact.
  • Depression that subsides in the spring and summer months.
  • Changes in appetite, especially increased cravings for sugary or starchy foods.
  • Weight gain.
  • Decreased energy
  • Difficulty concentrating.
  • A tendency to oversleep.

Many people don't realize there's anything wrong. They may dismiss their symptoms as the winter blahs, which might peak in January and February and go away as the daylight hours get longer. But if the symptoms return two years in a row, it may be time to seek medical attention.

Location, genetics, age may be factors

So far, researchers have not been able to identify a cause for SAD.

"The leading theories are that there is something abnormal about the circadian rhythm — our day-to-day rhythm," McIntyre said. "If we can alter that pattern in the clinic, we may be able to return persons back to work and improve symptoms."

Some studies have suggested that people who live in northern latitudes are more susceptible to the condition than those who live further south, where the hours of sunlight don't vary as drastically. For example, less than 0.9 per cent of Asians seem to be affected.

But there may also be a genetic link. An American study published in June 1999 found that 13-17 per cent of people who develop SAD have an immediate family member with the disorder.

Age may also be related. SAD is rare among children and teenagers. The risk increases once you've hit the age of 20. It affects more women than men. But as you hit middle and old age, you are less likely to suffer from the condition.

Your workplace may also increase your risk — especially if you leave for work when it's dark out, go home after the sun sets and don't see much of winter's daylight hours in between. The risk is also greater for people who work shifts.

Treatments

SAD is treatable. The Canadian Mental Health Association notes that even people with severe symptoms — including thoughts of suicide — respond quickly to treatment.

For some people with mild symptoms, taking a vacation in a southern climate — or making a point of getting outside during the daylight — could turn things around. Often SAD symptoms return shortly after the vacation ends.

For those with more severe symptoms, a mixture of light therapy, cognitive therapy and medication usually does the trick.

Light therapy — where a patient sits directly in front of a special light board designed to shine light into the eyes once or twice a day, from 30 minutes to a couple of hours — is estimated to be effective in up to 80 per cent of cases. The light box should emit the equivalent of the output of eight fluorescent bulbs.

Light therapy works to regulate your body's production of melatonin, a hormone that lets your body know when it's time to sleep or when it's time to wake up. It's believed the dark winter months may disrupt melatonin cycles.

Other things you can do to reduce your risk of developing SAD include:

  • Trim tree branches that block some of the light from getting into your home.
  • Keep your curtains opened during the day.
  • Exercise outdoors.
  • If you exercise indoors, do it near a window.
  • Watch your diet.

But if you're thinking about booking a few sessions at a tanning salon, you might want to reconsider. You need visible light to boost your spirits — not the ultraviolet rays put out by tanning beds. The World Health Organization warns that tanning beds pose a risk of skin cancer and no one under the age of 18 should use one.

Go to the Top

Story Tools: PRINT | Text Size: S M L XL | REPORT TYPO | SEND YOUR FEEDBACK

World »

New U.S.-led Mosul airstrike may have killed over 100 civilians
Iraqi rescue workers continued pulling bodies from the rubble of a collapsed building in the al-Jadida neighbourhood of Western Mosul on Friday.
Republicans abruptly pull controversial health-care bill off House floor video
In a humiliating setback, U.S. President Donald Trump and Republican leaders pulled their Obamacare repeal bill off the House floor Friday after it became clear the measure would fail badly.
CBC IN LONDON The officer and the MP: both tried to save lives, only one succeeded
Keith Palmer and Tobias Ellwood, both fathers and at one time soldiers, are both being praised for their heroism in Wednesday's attack in London.
more »

Canada »

Analysis Liberals' latest attempt at parliamentary reform remains a tale of woe, for now video
The latest attempt at parliamentary reform in Canada seems in danger of being strangled by parliamentary democracy.
Dennis Oland's lawyers prepare to seek 'complete vindication'
Dennis Oland's second degree murder case soon could be back before the Supreme Court of Canada as his defence lawyers prepare next steps in their bid toward his "complete vindication."
FIFTH ESTATE 'Strong suspicion': Dylan Koshman's 2008 disappearance in Edmonton upgraded to homicide investigation
An eight-year-old missing person case involving the disappearance of Dylan Koshman in Edmonton has been upgraded to a homicide investigation, The Fifth Estate has learned.
more »

Politics »

Liberal MPs gather in Ottawa for rare weekend caucus meeting
Days after handing down its second budget, the Liberal government has asked its MPs to stay in Ottawa this weekend to discuss how best to sell the financial plan to constituents.
Analysis Liberals' latest attempt at parliamentary reform remains a tale of woe, for now video
The latest attempt at parliamentary reform in Canada seems in danger of being strangled by parliamentary democracy.
Republicans abruptly pull controversial health-care bill off House floor video
In a humiliating setback, U.S. President Donald Trump and Republican leaders pulled their Obamacare repeal bill off the House floor Friday after it became clear the measure would fail badly.
more »

Health »

Sorry - we can't find that page
 
CBC.ca

Sorry, we can't find the page you requested.

  1. Please check the URL in the address bar, or ...
  2. Use the navigation links at left to explore our site, or ...
  3. Enter a term in the Quick Search box at top, or ...
  4. Visit our site map page

In a few moments, you will be taken to our site map page, which will help you find what you looking for.

more »

Arts & Entertainment»

How moving to Canada helped Amy Jo Johnson, the first Pink Power Ranger, reinvent her career
The crush of fame that came with starring in Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers in the '90s was almost too much for a young Amy Jo Johnson to handle. But it was the start of a varied and ultimately successful career.
No changes to The Last Jedi because of Carrie Fisher's death, says Disney CEO
Disney CEO Bob Iger says the upcoming Star Wars sequel has not been changed due to the death of Carrie Fisher.
As It Happens Sesame Street puppeteer hopes new Muppet with autism will help kids understand each other
Sesame Street puppeteer Stacey Gordon hopes the new character Julia will help children understand that "kids who might behave like Julia are just like they are."
more »

Technology & Science »

Black hole gets unusual 'kick' out of galaxy core thanks to gravitational waves video
A team of international researchers got a bit of a shock recently: A supermassive black hole — something that normally anchors the centre of a galaxy — was spotted speeding away from its home. The reason? Gravitational waves, says the research team.
The politics of Pluto: 10 years later, the bitter debate rages on
More than 10 years after Pluto was demoted from planet to dwarf planet, the debate continues, with leading scientists on both sides becoming more vociferous and maybe a little testy.
Blog Trump's proposed NASA cuts take aim at Earth science
Officials at NASA were delighted that U.S. President Donald Trump's budget proposal allocates $19.1 billion for the agency, down only 0.8 per cent from last year, but the proposal also cuts several programs to study the Earth.
more »

Money »

Keystone XL pipeline gets OK from U.S. State Department video
Calgary-based TransCanada has received a presidential permit from the U.S. State Department that allows it to build the long-delayed Keystone XL pipeline.
Toronto stock index extends rally, Wall Street mixed after 'Trumpcare' pulled
Canada's main stock index extended its rally for a third consecutive day on Friday after beginning the week at its lowest level this year, as Wall Street idled on the latest 'Trumpcare' news.
Inflation rate cools to 2% in February video
Canada's inflation rate was two per cent in February, a slight cooldown from January's level.
more »

Consumer Life »

Sorry - we can't find that page
 
CBC.ca

Sorry, we can't find the page you requested.

  1. Please check the URL in the address bar, or ...
  2. Use the navigation links at left to explore our site, or ...
  3. Enter a term in the Quick Search box at top, or ...
  4. Visit our site map page

In a few moments, you will be taken to our site map page, which will help you find what you looking for.

more »

Sports »

[an error occurred while processing this directive]
Bettman says IOC, IIHF must make concessions on Olympics
The International Olympic Committee and hockey's governing body will have to make concessions before the NHL sends the world's best players to the Winter Games in South Korea next year, commissioner Gary Bettman said on Friday.
Hockey Night in Canada: Free live streams on desktop & mobile
CBC Sports will provide free live streams of all Hockey Night in Canada games on all platforms, including the Maple Leafs visiting the Sabres and the Oilers hosting the Avalanche.
Preview Canadian MacDougall set for debut run at 'stacked' cross-country worlds
Brogan MacDougall reportedly is in "excellent form" ahead of her debut run at Sunday's world cross-country championships (CBCSports.ca, 7 a.m. ET) in Kampala, Uganda, where the 16-year-old high school standout will lead Canada's 27-athlete contingent.
more »

Diversions »

[an error occurred while processing this directive]
more »