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 »

Republican plan for quick Obamacare repeal fails in Senate
After seven years of emphatic campaign promises, Republicans failed Wednesday to repeal Obamacare, as the U.S. Senate voted 55-45 to reject legislation undoing major portions of Barack Obama's law without replacing it.
Fed keeps key interest rate unchanged amid low inflation
The U.S. Federal Reserve is keeping its benchmark interest rate unchanged at a time of low inflation, which remains persistently below the Fed's target level.
Opponents home and abroad trying to stop Venezuelan president from rewriting constitution
The U.S. has announced sanctions on 13 current and former members of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro's administration in a bid to pressure the socialist leader to suspend Sunday's election of a special assembly that would rewrite the country's constitution.
more »

Canada »

Drop that boombox: Music-playing hikers have Calgary man singing the blues
Kris LaBelle and his son love hiking in Kananaskis County. They get out as often as they can, but a recent trend has the Calgary man singing the blues.
Man arrested in connection with 2013 killing of Manitoba teen girl video
Police have arrested a 23-year-old man from Gods Lake Narrows in connection with the unsolved killing of 15-year-old Leah Anderson.
Canada's endangered wild ginseng under threat from poachers
Conservation officers in Ontario and Quebec are using surveillance and other techniques to outsmart poachers bent on digging up Canada's most endangered plant: wild American ginseng, which can sell for anywhere from several hundred to several thousand dollars per root.
more »

Politics »

Canada promotes recruitment of transgender troops as Donald Trump imposes military ban
As U.S. President Donald Trump pushes a new policy to banish transgender Americans from the military, Canada is taking steps to promote diversity in the ranks and recruit more gay, lesbian and trans troops.
Canada's endangered wild ginseng under threat from poachers
Conservation officers in Ontario and Quebec are using surveillance and other techniques to outsmart poachers bent on digging up Canada's most endangered plant: wild American ginseng, which can sell for anywhere from several hundred to several thousand dollars per root.
Canada to beef up police presence in Iraq after fall of Mosul
CBC News has learned the Liberal government will announce within days a greatly expanded police-training presence in Iraq. Up to 20 Canadian police trainers will be deloyed to the war-torn country, up from four. The renewed mission will look at ways to boost the numbers and training of Iraqi women officers.
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»

Justin Trudeau, dubbed 'The North Star,' lands Rolling Stone cover
'Is Canada's prime minister the free world's best hope?' Rolling Stone magazine seems to thinks so, with its flattering cover feature about Justin Trudeau.
CBC Investigates $20M Annie Leibovitz collection rejected for 4th time by Canadian tribunal
A federal tribunal has for the fourth time rejected the bulk of the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia's enormous Annie Leibovitz collection, raising questions about whether the prints by the famous American photographer will ever be displayed in Halifax.
Angelina Jolie reveals health, marriage problems in new interview
Angelina Jolie reveals she developed high blood pressure and Bell's palsy last year, though she credits acupuncture for her full recovery.
more »

Technology & Science »

Can we create life from scratch? Scientists start with yeast
The research may reveal basic, hidden rules that govern the structure and functioning of genomes. But it could also open the door to life with new and useful characteristics.
Wisconsin company offers microchip implants to employees video
A Wisconsin vending machine company is offering its employees a chance to have a microchip implanted in their hands that they could use to buy snacks, log in to computers or use the copy machine.
Video 'This guy thinks he is a bald eagle': Young hawk defies odds in Sidney, B.C.
A young red-tailed hawk that has been raised by a pair of bald eagles in a Sidney, B.C., nest continues to defy the odds.
more »

Money »

Facebook profit, revenue smash estimates as mobile ad sales soar
Facebook Inc surpassed quarterly profit and revenue estimates on Wednesday as the social media giant found more ways to attract advertisers to its mobile app including its centrepiece product, the Facebook News Feed, sending its shares to an all-time high.
Sears Canada shuts down Facebook comments amid flood of angry messages
After getting flooded with angry comments about how it’s treating laid-off workers and calls for a boycott, Sears Canada is both removing and no longer allowing public posts on its Facebook site.
Fed keeps key interest rate unchanged amid low inflation
The U.S. Federal Reserve is keeping its benchmark interest rate unchanged at a time of low inflation, which remains persistently below the Fed's target 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]
World record-breaking swimmer Masse adds bronze in mixed relay video
Canada's Kylie Masse added to her medal haul at the world aquatics championships. One day after making history, Masse, along with Richard Funk, Penny Oleksiak and Yuri Kisil combined to finish in a third-place tie with China on Wednesday in the mixed 4x100-metre medley relay in Budapest.
Video Kylie Masse: 'It's been quite a whirlwind but really fun' video
World record-breaking Canadian swimmer reflects on her performances at the world aquatics championships.
Video Kylie Masse's world record takes over Twitter video
Between winning a world title and setting a new world record in the 100-metre backstroke, to say Kylie Masse's had a lot of Twitter notifications is an understatement. ​
more »

Diversions »

[an error occurred while processing this directive]
more »