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Does winter make you SAD?

Andrea Stockton, staff writer

December 1, 2010 — Signs of winter are appearing and for some that means the start of seasonal affective disorder.

Less daylight during the winter months helps to trigger SAD
Less daylight during the winter months helps to trigger SAD

For some, winter is the dreaded season. As soon as the clocks fall back, a sense of depression kicks in. One in six Canadians actually suffer from seasonal affective disorder or SAD.

Less daylight and colder temperatures makes it difficult for people to remain motivated. Karen Liberman, with the Mood Disorders Association of Ontario says the winter season can be a long one for those who suffer with SAD.

“It starts in the fall and kind of reaches its peak in January. By February and March it will start to feel as if they're coming out of it,” explains Liberman.

Two common symptoms of the disorder are a lack of energy and cravings for more sugary foods.

“The way it manifests in me is I just want to sleep all the time. Eat a lot,” says Ingrid Mraz, a SAD sufferer. “I'm a very social, outgoing person and I just don't care about seeing my friends.”

Ingrid uses a lamp that imitates daylight to read
Ingrid uses a lamp that imitates daylight to read

Liberman says that the signs of SAD are “very typical to what you might see in any magazine that says 'are you depressed?'”


SAD can be treated with simple things such as exercise and eating a well balanced diet. Some doctors recommend particular vitamins as well.

“Vitamin D is critical and that's really important for improving mood in patients that have already experienced low mood,” says Dr. Jane Goehner from Balance Point Health Centre.

Special lamps that imitate daylight have also been known to help get some people through the frosty months.

Spending time with a pet can also boost your spirits. For example, by walking the dog, you're getting exercise and exposure to sunlight -- two things that may make you feel better.

And you're not the only one who could benefit. Getting outside with your dog might make the animal feel better, too. Dogs and other pets can feel low when you do.

“If you're depressed, and your dog is around you, they're very, very in tune to your feelings and can therefore themselves get depressed,” says veterinarian Karine Eusanio.

To find out more about what the winter season will bring your way this year, head to our 2010 / 2011 Winter Outlook.

With files from Lisa Varano

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