Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D) is a term that describes our susceptibility to cyclical depressive periods during the fall and winter seasons. A product of genetic chance combined with the right environmental circumstance, S.A.D is a disorder prevalent in Ottawa, effecting thousands of people throughout the city. Getting through the winter is tough when you suffer from S.A.D, but it’s made easier with the right knowledge. Learn how to identify and address the causes and symptoms of S.A.D in Ottawa with Capital Choice Counselling.
The Problem With S.A.D
“Know your enemy and know yourself, and you can fight a hundred battles without disaster.”
Most people in Ottawa experience some degree of change in their mood and behavior with the change of the seasons. For some, these changes are minor and are simply part of living in winter. For others, these changes are major. Because seasonal mood change is so common, those who suffer an unhealthy degree of it often are left unaware that their seasonal change could be a health problem!
Seasonal Affective Disorder is a term used to describe those who are particularly exposed to intense mood shifts with the onset of seasonal change. Due to a poor social understanding of the disease, many sufferers of S.A.D spend their entire life without even being aware that they suffer from seasonal depression. Every winter they sleep more, have less energy, and experiencing a ‘hollowing out’ of their day-to-day experience; but the onset of this change can be so subtle it creeps onto us without our awareness.
By knowing the causes and symptoms of S.A.D, we can improve our ability to help ourselves and those we love identify and deal with the symptoms of this disorder. Learn them here with Capital Choice Counselling.
The Signs of S.A.D
Feelings of Hopelessness and Worthlessness
How do you feel about yourself? Is it any different now compared to six months ago?
Our self-esteem is a foundation of strong mental health. When it suffers, it’s like losing the wind in the sails of life. Focusing your awareness on your feelings and beliefs about your personal value, and thinking about how they have changed over time can be a powerful way to identify the presence of S.A.D.
S.A.D effects us cyclically, waxing and waning with the seasons. By identifing shifts in beliefs and feelings about oneself that appear to follow the change in the seasons, we can be better able to detect S.A.D in ourselves in others.
Thoughts of Suicide
Have you ever looked over a balcony, and been struck by the intrusive thought of jumping over? This is a natural thing that almost everyone does without meaning to. We cannot help but mentally picture things that will cause us harm or death, as doing so allows us to avoid these things!
Sometimes, however, it can be surprising to have a thought like this that actually makes us feel good. Known as suicidal ideation, these kinds of thoughts are extremely common, but can in many cases signify trouble. If you imagine driving in opposing traffic, or jumping off a balcony, and find that the thought provides you a degree of relief or catharsis, this is a strong indication of major depression.
Loss of Interest in Activities
Do you have hobbies that have, for no immediately apparent reason, seem to have lost their appeal to you? This kind of inexplicable loss of interest is a common symptom of those that suffer from major depressive disorders, of which S.A.D is included.
Try and see if you can identify a particular time-period where you (or someone you know) were last actively interested in the hobby that has apparently been dropped. Does it seem to co-incide with a change of seasons? If so, this is an indication of the plausible presence of S.A.D
Withdrawl from Social Interaction
The average Ottawa resident, during the winter months, is bound to spend more time than normal inside and away from friends. Going out is a lot more work than in the summer months, and so we’re bound to do less of it.
But how does seeing less of your friends make you feel? Does the prospect of going out to social gatherings cause you to feel a little irritated due to struggling with snow and cold, or does it make you feel dread?
If you or someone you know is generally quite sociable, and the onset of winter causes a distinct shift towards abnormal, hermit-like behaviors, this is a strong red flag for S.A.D. Self-isolation is a common behavior for those with depression, and when the behavior correlates with the seasons, this indicates S.A.D.
Disruption to Sleep, Appetite, Sex
Winter combined with a 9-5 schedule wreaks havoc on our natural biological rhythms. The body evolved to move with the rhythms of nature, and not the clock on an office wall. The human body recognizes the changing of the seasons, and will adjust a whole range of natural rhythms to accommodate it. Unfortunately, the rhythm of the economy is not so accommodating. Our bodies want to sleep and eat at different times, but our jobs generally require otherwise.
For many, the incongruity between our biological clocks and the one on the office wall is not a major struggle to deal with. For those with S.A.D, loss of sleep and appetite caused by a shift in the seasons exacerbate seasonal suffering. It impacts performance at work, school, home; reducing our energy, our ability to focus, and our capacity to make good decisions.
Dealing with S.A.D
Establishing self awareness of the shifting moods, beliefs of self-worth, and thoughts about the world is a great first step to take. It may be the case that you were bright and exuberant 6 months ago, dark and melancholy now; but because the shift was so gradual, you may not even know it happened! Taking time to focus your thoughts on your thoughts, specifically with respect to how they have changed over time, allows you to identify the possible existence of psychological symptoms of S.A.D.
It’s also important to invest some thought into the presence of physiological and behavioral symptoms of S.A.D. Have you been experiencing disruptions to your regular sleep pattern? Even with a good nights sleep, do you still feel uncharacteristically exhausted? Have you experienced any peculiar changes in appetite or sex drive? Do you see your friends often?
All of these questions and more are important ones you ought to ask yourself when considering the possibility of Seasonal Affective Disorder. Take a look at the above symptoms, ask yourself questions about your thoughts, moods, behaviors, and patterns, and see if you can identify these symptoms in your life.
Capital Choice Counselling
Learning how S.A.D effects those that suffer from it is the first step to helping ourselves and those around us understand and cope with the disorder. In Ottawa, thousands of people struggle with the disorder, many of whom do so without even knowing it!
Knowing the disorder is only the first step. After establishing understanding, we must then apply it.
Performing a rigorous analysis of the thoughts, feelings, and behavior of those around us to identify the presence of S.A.D is an inordinately difficult thing to do properly. This is why, in order to do it right, it is necessary to enlist the help of a mental health professional.
If the above information resonates with you, leading you to the believe that you likely have S.A.D, it is important not to jump to the conclusion right away. Many other disorders, and combinations of disorders, can cause symptoms very similar to S.A.D. What you believe to be S.A.D may be Bipolar disorder, Mycorbid depression, or simply a particularly intense need to take a vacation! The only way to know for sure is to get in touch with Capital Choice Counselling, and book a session to talk with a specialist.