Seasonal affective disorder, aptly shortened to SAD, is a type of depression related to the change in seasons – for most people it starts in the fall and continues into the winter months (though less common, it can affect individuals in spring and summer months). Located in North York, The Medical Station offers medical and psychosocial support for clinic patients who may be suffering from SAD.
What is SAD?SAD is a mood disorder that recurs at the same time each year due to the changing of seasons and the subsequent shortening of daylight hours. This lack of light affects your biological clock and the neurons that produce serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine – these are neurotransmitters responsible for emotion, pleasure, and cognition. Thus the lack of light can result in depression, and is often accompanied by changes in your sleep, appetite, sex drive, mood and activity levels. SAD is characterized by months of depression followed by months of feeling fine – this cycle repeats itself at the same time in the calendar each year. SAD affects 2-6% of the Canadian population. Though anyone can get SAD, women are more likely than men, and adults are at a higher risk than youth. The symptoms typically start out mild but get more severe as the season (typically winter) progresses.
Symptoms of SADSAD shares many similar symptoms to clinical depression; there are however, certain distinguishing symptoms such as:
- Tiredness or low energy
- Problems getting along with others
- Hypersensitivity to rejection
- Heavy feeling in arms or legs
- Change in appetite – craving high carb foods
- Weight gain
Diagnosing SAD at The Medical StationBased in North York, The Medical Station is acutely aware of the seasonal changes and the drastic changes in daylight hours. Our clinic understands the effects these changes have on our patients. It is common to experience mood changes with the shift of the seasons; therefore, it is important to distinguish SAD from the “winter blues” which affects a larger proportion of our population and is not as severe. If you are unsure if you are experiencing SAD, come by The Medical Station – our clinic’s physicians and medical staff will discuss your experiences and conduct an assessment in order to determine if you may be affected by SAD.
The Medical Station Offers Treatment for SADThere are a number of treatment options The Medical Station supports and offers for patients affected by SAD.
- Counselling and psychotherapy offered by our clinic’s on-site Social Worker
- Speak to your care provider at The Medical Station about light therapy/phototherapy to restore circadian rhythms. Our clinic’s physicians will discuss this treatment option with you and, if necessary, can write a prescription for light therapy (while light therapy is not covered by OHIP, some insurance plans may offer coverage if you have a prescription from your physician)
- Medications – our clinic physicians will work with you to determine if medication may be appropriate for you