Seasonal Affective Disorder

For those of us living in Vancouver you have probably heard about or experienced seasonal affective disorder (SAD). If you have SAD you’ll notice that your mood dips during the fall and winter months and you become seasonally depressed. In Vancouver seasonal depression may last longer because it doesn’t typically get sunny until late June or July. This means that SAD could follow you into the spring months as well.


People who suffer from seasonal affective disorder may experience mild to moderate symptoms. In some cases the symptoms can become severe.

The characteristics and symptoms of SAD are:

• oversleeping

• daytime fatigue

• weight gain


• decreased sexual desire or interest

• laziness

• hopelessness

• suicidal thoughts

• lack of interest in activities

social avoidance and withdrawal

The symptoms are similar to those of a low grade depression. You may wish to keep track of when you usually become depressed each year. If you are new to Vancouver and had moved from a sunnier climate it may take you a year to adjust to the cloudy and rainy Vancouver weather.

A seasonal affective disorder doesn’t only occur in the winter months. In about 10% of SAD cases, feelings of depression and sadness occur in the summer months instead of the winter months. When it occurs in the summer months it is known as Reverse SAD. It may be in response to humidity and high heat. The depression tends to look a bit different with reverse SAD.

Symptoms include:

• insomnia

• decreased appetite

• weight loss

• agitation



Light therapy – A popular treatment for winter SAD is light therapy. If your symptoms are mild to moderate and don’t really interfere with your daily life, light therapy could be a good option. You should check out the Center for Environmental Therapeutics for information on a daylight simulator. Treatment can be as simple as turning on more lamps in your house and taking trips more often to hotter and sunnier climates.

Practicing self care —Regular exercise, getting enough sleep and healthy eating have been shown to reduce the effects of seasonal affective disorder and depression. These are helpful if you have only mild changes in your mood that follow a seasonal pattern. Doing these things can also help alongside treatment for more moderate or severe symptoms. Going for a walk, even on a cloudy rainy day can make all the difference in your mood. So don’t be afraid to get out there and puddle jump, or go for a casual stroll around the neighbourhood.

Vitamins – Ensuring you’re getting proper nutrients can help in reducing SAD. Some research indicates that taking larger doses of Vitamin D during the darker months can help reduce the effects of depression.

Go some place sunny – A trip to Cancun, Southern California, or even Hawaii in February can be pretty inexpensive at times.

Counselling – If your symptoms are moderate to severe, it is a good idea to check in with a professional therapist. During your therapy session we could figure out if there is anything else going on, and discuss many different coping techniques and tools that will help treat the depression and agitation.

wikipedia SAD | web md SAD

If you’re struggling with seasonal affective disorder and in need of help contact Lighthouse Counselling Vancouver to receive your free consultation. For more information click here, or call 604-809-5848.  Help is just a click away!