Feeling SAD this season may be a little more than common winter blues

Season’s change and with that moods fluctuate, but should you find yourself with a case of the ‘winter blues’ that just will not go away, it may be something a little more serious.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) affects two to three per cent of the population, though it is said these numbers are potentially higher in northern parts of the globe.

This, because it correlates with the amount of sunlight once receives on a daily basis, and the days are short in the north, and treatment by exposure to bright artificial light (light therapy) improves the conditions drastically (in 60 to 70 per cent of patients).

So how can one distinguish SAD from regular depression, or even the common case of the ‘winter blues’?

Firstly, SAD is like clinical depression but only during the autumn and winter months (although in rare cases it can be summer); to distinguish from a mild ‘down’ feeling, there are symptoms to be aware of.

These include low energy, problems with sleep and appetite, lost of interest in normally enjoyable activities, reduced concentration to the point of having difficulty functioning, oversleeping, extreme fatigue, increased appetite with cravings for carbohydrates overeating and weight gain. Suicidal thoughts can also be part of the equation. All this according the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA).

Research has connected SAD to the production of melatonin, a hormone that invokes sleep in humans – as the winter days become shorter, and sunlight lessens. Although it has been around since the 1800’s, it has not garnered much attention until about a decade ago.

If you reach a certain point, CMHA advises you to seek help. This point includes factors like, impaired functioning (difficulty getting to work on time regularly), major reduction on ability to think and concentrate, difficulty completing tasks previously manageable. Also if your mood creates problems in your personal life (withdrawing from friends and family), regular feelings of depression (sad/crying spells, feeling life is not worthwhile, negative thoughts about the self, guilt and pessimism about the future). Or, if your physical functioning is seriously affected (more sleep required, difficulty waking up).

If you think you may be experiencing SAD, contact your health professional.