Mind & Spirit

How to know if you have Seasonal Affective Disorder

By: Daniela Payne
How to know if you have Seasonal Affective Disorder

How to know if you have Seasonal Affective Disorder Author: Getty Images

Mind & Spirit

How to know if you have Seasonal Affective Disorder

By: Daniela Payne

If you suffer from feelings of depression during the winter, you could have Seasonal Affective Disorder. Here's what you need to know about risk factors, symptoms and treatment options.

The short, cold and dark days of winter have many of us feeling low, but how can you tell if what you're feeling is more than the run-of-the-mill winter blahs? Read on to see if what you're suffering from might be Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), and discover what you should do about it.

What is SAD?
SAD is a category of depression that follows a seasonal pattern. While many people might feel a change in mood and loss of energy in the winter months, some might feel that coping with the tasks of daily life are near impossible. This portion of the population feels this way from late autumn to early spring, and could be suffering from the form of clinical depression known as Seasonal Affective Disorder.

What are the symptoms of SAD?
Symptoms of SAD include some or all of the following:
• Low energy
• Irritability
• Excessive sleep
• Craving for carbohydrates
• Weight gain
• Withdrawing from friends
A depressed mood in winter months
• A lifting of mood in spring and summer months

Who does SAD affect?
Though SAD can affect anyone, it's more commonly seen in women. "Depression in general is often quoted as being twice as common in women as in men," explains Dr. Matthew Chow, medical director of psychiatry at the Mood Disorder Association of B.C. "SAD seems to follow this trend, with some sources reporting that it is four to eight times more common in women than in men."

SAD is also more common in people who live in Northern climates, where daylight is limited in winter months. SAD sufferers are most commonly adults, and it can run in your family.

How can I tell if I'm suffering from SAD or depression?
The symptoms of SAD and depression are similar, and can sometimes be hard to tell apart. "The most distinguishing feature of SAD is that it comes and goes with the seasons. An individual will be severely affected during the winter and experience nearly complete relief in the spring and summer," says Dr. Chow.

How is SAD diagnosed?
SAD is diagnosed by a medical or psychological professional such as a family doctor, psychiatrist, or psychologist. The usual process includes a comprehensive interview and examination to determine whether the symptoms are being caused by SAD or something else, explains Dr. Chow.

What are some common treatments for SAD?
Common treatments for SAD include light therapy, talk therapy and in some instances anti-depressant medication. Activities such as massage, yoga, meditation, and physical activity performed outdoors, can also help ease symptoms. Check out these seven tips that might help ease the symptoms of SAD.

What should I do if I think I have SAD?

If you think you are suffering from SAD or depression, it's important that you make an appointment with your family doctor or a psychological professional immediately.

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Mind & Spirit

How to know if you have Seasonal Affective Disorder