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Leah Sarich | posted Friday, Jan 15th, 2016


Many of us are feeling a little blue these days…. the holiday spending is catching up with us and the days are so short… but it’s also the time of year for a more serious mental illness called Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD.

Dr. Scott Patten, a psychiatrist with the University of Calgary, explains SAD is actually a subset of major depression. It’s characterized by a pattern of depressive symptoms that usually start in the winter and resolve in the spring, and while many of these symptoms are similar to those of major depression there are are a few differences. People with SAD usually experience a depressed mood, lose interest in previously enjoyable activities and have trouble concentrating. But unlike major depression, SAD patients will also sleep more, eat more and gain weight.

The treatment for SAD has similarities to major depression as well. Like depression, treatment can include psychotherapy and antidepressant medication. But unlike depression, Dr. Patten says some patients may feel better with light therapy. This therapy includes using a light box that emits light and looking at it for about 30 minutes a day, sometimes twice a day. Dr. Patten explains if SAD patients use more than one form of therapy they may do better. So for example, a patient may use light therapy in addition to psychotherapy and experience more benefit than a patient that only uses a light box. While the light box seems rather innocuous, Dr. Patten warns it’s not for everyone. For those patients who also have bipolar disorder, light therapy can trigger a manic response. So, Dr. Patten recommends talking to your mental health professional about what treatment option would be best for you.

For more information about Seasonal Affective Disorder visit this website. If you need to see a mental health professional call Access Mental Health at 403 943 1500 or talk to your family doctor.


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