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What is Seasonal Depression / Seasonal Affective Disorder?

Seasonal Affective Disorder is sometimes known as (SAD), or depression with a seasonal pattern. Approximately 15% of Canadians report having SAD. at least once throughout their lifetime. SAD follows the seasons- usually showing up in early fall and leaving around the end of spring. Who is at Risk? SAD is often seen in those above 18 years of age. However, this does not mean that younger people don’t experience seasonal affective disorder as well. People who have a history of depression or bipolar disorder are at a greater risk of having SAD. This population tends to have more severe symptoms of seasonal depressive disorder as well. Symptoms of SAD There are some symptoms you can watch out for. Feeling sad or depressed - A loss of interest in things you used to enjoy - Changes in appetite (typically an increase in carbohydrates intake) - Changes in sleep (typically oversleeping) - Loss of energy and feeling fatigue, despite sleeping more than usual - Increase in purposeless physical activity (pacing, bouncing leg, etc.), slow movements or slowed speech - Feelings of worthlessness or guilt - Difficulty thinking, making decisions, and / or focusing - Thoughts of death or suicide What causes SAD? There are a number of factors that are believed to cause SAD. Mainly, there is a biochemical imbalance in the brain which is prompted by shorter daylight hours and a reduced amount of sunlight in the winter. When the seasons start to change, there is a shift in circadian rhythm (which is basically a person’s internal clock), which causes a change in sleep practices, wake periods, and having enough energy to get through the day.

Seasonal depression causes

How is SAD treated? The good news is that seasonal affective disorder can be treated and managed. 1. Psychotherapy Psychotherapy is an effective treatment for SAD. There are a number of things that happen in therapy for seasonal affective disorder, such as challenging negative beliefs and thinking patterns, improving emotional regulation, as well as finding and developing healthy coping strategies to help you manage and work through the symptoms. 2. Light therapy Light therapy is a treatment that involves using a light box for at least 30 minutes per day, to increase vitamin D, and to counteract the lack of natural daylight that can trigger SAD. 3. Lifestyle changes Some small changes to consider making, to improve your mood and decrease symptoms of seasonal affective disorder include: - Eating a well balanced meal, with foods that are rich in vitamin D and Omega-3 fatty acids - Creating and maintaining healthy sleep hygiene - Daily exercise, which releases endorphins and other hormones that can help with moods - Spending time outdoors, even if it is for 10 minutes several times a day - Socializing on a daily basis - Spending time with pets can lower blood pressure and help regulate emotions


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