Could you have seasonal affective disorder?

If you feel energized by a bright, sunny day or sluggish on a rainy day, you understand how easily the weather can affect mood. While mild mood changes in response to the weather are normal, mood changes that affect your ability to function are not. If you feel symptoms of depression that come and go with the seasons, you may be suffering from seasonal affective disorder (SAD).

sad woman

According to the Mood Disorders Society of Canada, approximately 2 per cent of Canadians are affected by SAD. This mood disorder is more likely to occur in women than in men and tends to occur more frequently in areas that have longer winter nights. As SAD symptoms can vary, it’s important to know which signs to watch for so you can seek diagnosis and treatment.

Fatigue

If you have SAD, you may feel sluggish. This symptom might present as your feeling as though you don’t have enough energy to do the things you normally do, or you might have difficulty concentrating. SAD can also affect your sleep habits; people affected by this mood disorder tend to need more sleep.

Depression and anxiety

Seasonal depression and anxiety are the most common indicators of SAD. Depression might manifest as feelings of hopelessness, or you might feel unhappy and irritable for no apparent reason. You might even notice that you’re no longer interested in activities you used to enjoy. Anxiety can also occur with seasonal affective disorder. It can be triggered by not being able to keep up with things you normally can, such as work and household chores. Social withdrawal is another symptom that can occur as a result of feelings of depression and anxiety.

Changes in appetite

Unlike the loss of appetite associated with major depression, seasonal affective disorder tends to cause an increase in appetite and is associated with weight gain, likely caused by overeating — you might crave carbohydrates more often.

More on depression

Are you depressed?
Keep an eye on your mental health over the holidays
Depression in the workplace: What you can do

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