SAD “Seasonal Affective Disorder”
If you feel that the gloomy weather is bringing you down and you lack your usual energy and motivation you are not alone. As the days get shorter and we have little sunshine during the winter months, some people are affected by a clinical depression called “Seasonal Affective Disorder” or SAD.
People suffering from SAD experience the same symptoms as the traditional depression, triggered by the winter weather, when there is less natural sunlight. SAD affects people mostly in northern latitude climates such as Canada, where the winters are usually long and dark, with a greater percentage of those affected being women (80% of women and 20% of men). Those who experience Seasonal Affective Disorder find themselves feeling sad, lethargic and unmotivated to do things they usually do.
Common symptoms of SAD are:
- Feeling fatigued and tired during the day
- Less motivation do to things
- Wanting to sleep too much or waking up in the middle of the night
- Craving carbohydrates/Changes in weight
- Difficulty concentrating
- Difficulty making decisions
- Forgetting things
- Less joy and enthusiasm
According to the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA), 15% will experience the “winter blues”, while 2-3% of the population may be affected by Seasonal Affective Depression or SAD. But the good news is that it is all treatable.
Tips you can use to release these symptoms are:
- Light Therapy: there are “daylight lamps or boxes” that you can get at the drug stores or online. These lamps need to provide at least 10.000 LUX in order to be therapeutic and you just need to be in front of the lamp for only 20 minutes a day, in the morning.
- Expose yourself to natural light: Go for a walk whenever there is sun, open the curtains and sit next to windows. Natural sunlight causes the brain to establish a normal day/night cycle; the lack of natural sunlight in the winter months causes a shift in this cycle that is thought to cause SAD.
- Eat well: instead of having more carbohydrates (pasta, pastries and desserts), try eating more protein and foods with Omega 3 such as eggs, salmon. You can also get vitamin D in tables, drops or capsules.
- Physical activity: research shows that exercise helps to regulate mood, increases energy as well as physical and mental health and well-being.
- Meditate: meditation has proven to be helpful in balancing and improving mood, as it regulates emotions and calms our nerves.
If all the above is not enough, seek help from a mental health professional. There are effective psychological treatments for all types of depression. Research shows that Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is the most effective treatment for depression and also effective in treating SAD. In this therapy, clients learn strategies to identify and challenge negative thought patterns and replace with healthy strategies and behaviours to fight the symptoms of SAD.
If you are interested in doing therapy, we provide research based psychological treatment for Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD. Contact us at 905-597-4404 or
Written By: Dr. Silvina Galperin, C. Psych.
CBT Psychology for Personal Development