Feeling More than the ‘Winter Blues’?

Feeling More than the ‘Winter Blues’?

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a condition, frequently typified by latent, mild depression, that is related to the change of seasons, notably as late Fall leads into December, January and February. Characterized as more than the ‘winter blues’, the symptoms commonly associated with SAD can be quite subtle and in more acute cases result in varying degrees of debilitation.

The cause of this condition is not known, but modern clinical experience has led to identification of common symptoms:

– Feeling listless almost every day

– Loss of interest in activities you normally engage in and enjoy

– Difficulty concentrating

– Problems sleeping, often too much

– Develop of ‘carb cravings’, leading to weight gain

In more extreme cases, problems with self-esteem, feelings of worthlessness, loss of hope, powerlessness, giving up on life

Further clinical experience indicates that essentially anyone can suffer from SAD, although people who are bipolar or susceptible to major depression are especially at risk. Excessive consumption of alcohol or abuse of drugs can amplify the symptoms outlined above.

These symptoms, if they persist past two weeks, ought not to be ignored, because those afflicted are vulnerable to social isolation or withdrawal, anxiety and eating disorders, school or work problems, apathy to the point of neglecting responsibilities, with the most extreme sufferers experiencing significant impairment, even entertaining suicidal thoughts.

And while there is no known cure, we can engage in behaviours designed to preempt SAD or manage it so as to minimize its impact. Maintaining a healthy routine that includes proper nutrition and pursuing positive winter activities is an excellent start. And that includes taking advantage of sunny winter days in an uplifting way with family and friends. Self-awareness of common symptoms may lead you to seek professional help, and doing that is infinitely preferable to any attempt at self-diagnosis and treatment. A valuable resource for counselling and treatment is the Canadian Association for Mental Health (CAMH): 416-535-8501 (calls within the GTA) 1-800-463-2338 (Toll-free) AND Downtown East, 250 College Street, 415-535-8501, ext. 77670.

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