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Can Seasonal Affective Disorder Impact Mental Health?

Updated: Sep 16

seasonal affective disorder

The calendar may not say it’s fall, but the darker mornings sure do. I love to fall! I love the colors, smell, and the idea of wrapping myself up with warm clothes and finding what fits for the moment. It could be a couch and a football game or a toque and a walk in the park.

I wasn’t always a fall lover, though because there is a dark side to fall; a cold, wet, rainy dark side.

Weird fact: I have never had heartburn. Most people tell me I am lucky when conversations about heartburn come up. They proceed to tell me about the discomfort I am blessed not to experience; I am a believer.

Vulnerable fact: I experienced depression back when it was gauche. When you weren’t sure how to talk to your doctor about it because of the stigma, so you wore a fake smile and made up crap as to why you were “off” for the 20th day in a row.

The Diagnostic and Statistics Manual for Mental Disorders (DSM V) defines depression as a common, serious mood disorder. Individuals with depression experience persistent feelings of sadness and hopelessness and lose interest in activities they once enjoyed. In other words, depression takes hold of you in a way you never imagined, and before you know it, your biggest accomplishment for the day, you tell your partner, is your journey from the bed to the couch.

It is “estimated 1 in 4 Canadians has a degree of depression serious enough to need treatment at some time in their life.”

Depression is a unique beast to navigate; your sanctuary slowly becomes your tomb. It takes work to process, time to change your behaviors and recognize what sets you on a downward spiral. When you start feeling better consistently, at least in my case, you pay close attention to your triggers.

Seasonal changes, especially from summer to fall, tend to be challenging for a lot of people. Previously known as the winter blues Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) was introduced by Dr. Norman Rosenthal and a group of his peers as “a type of depression that occurs regularly, every autumn and winter when the days get short and dark” in 1984 journal. [5] More recent studies have shown there is a growing number of individuals affected by SAD in the spring.

What Exactly is Seasonal Affective Disorder?

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a form of depression also known as seasonal

depression, or winter depression. A more familiar term may be the “winter blues.” SADs is characterized by “recurrent depressive episodes that are tied to the changing of the seasons.”

1. a type of depression, with symptoms lasting about 4 to 5 months per year”

2. Typically, individuals who experience SAD will start to experience symptoms as the seasons change from fall to winter, as daylight beings to shorten. Seasonal affective disorder accounts for 10% of all depression cases.

3. Causes for SADs are not 100% clear some studies suggest less daylight affects our circadian rhythm and natural melatonin production. And others point to links to susceptibility if a family member suffers from SADs. As one of the 221,600 construction workers in BC.

4. Someone who pays close attention to her mental health, it’s more than lack of daylight that affects your mental health. I have been fortunate in my career to work with professionals from around the world, and one thing they have all commented quite passionately about is the depression that comes from working in the constant rain.

There is something about knowing you will spend the next six months working in the rain and cold. Knowing you have to wear gloves every day and most dry shacks aren’t equipped with heaters, so your gloves won’t be dry until next spring. It’s knowing you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t when it comes to rain gear. (If the rain gear does keep you dry, you’ll be soaked with the sweat trapped under your rain gear). The fact that within seconds, your mandatory eye protection will make seeing your work so difficult that you’ll take them off

and end up getting spoken to. Or knowing each year your body hurts more, and for the most part, no one gives a crap. It’s not sadness. At least it wasn’t for me. It was this empty hopelessness like I was pulled into the blackness of my shadow.

But it’s not all doom and gloom. There are many great things we can do. First, we need to be able to recognize “our” warning signs.

Some Early Signs are:

• Over-sleeping (linked to melatonin production and the circadian rhythm)

• Lack of interest in activities BIG RED FLAG

• Diminished ability to think or concentrate

• Increase agitation or irritability BIG RED FLAG

• Significant weight change

• A significant change in alcohol consumption BIG RED FLAG

Lack of interest is my number one personal red flag. When I start to lose interest in following my morning routine, I know I have to pay close attention. At work, the number one thing I watch out for is irritability.

What Can You Do?

If you find yourself struggling with any one of the red flags for more than a week, you should do a self-check-in and see what’s going on for you.

If you find yourself struggling with more than one red flag, you should maybe check in with a professional for a quick chat.

Some of the research has shown improvement in individuals who adopt a light therapy program. I wasn’t sold on it at first, probably because textbooks didn’t make it look overly appealing. How Does Workplace Affect Mental Health It took a bit to get used to, but I enjoy having the light during the winter wet grey months. I find it helps.

The long-term effects of depression are devastating. If left untreated, it can lead to suicide. If you or someone you know is struggling with depression and suicide, there is help TEXT HOME to 686868 within Canada. You will be connected to a crisis specialist.

Most extended health plans and unions include an employee assistance program or (EAP)which generally gets you access to some immediate services.

Bounce Back is a free mental health service that helps individuals improve their mental health skills.

The biggest thing you can do is ask for help. The only thing that makes it awkward is the story in your head. Big breath, you got this.

What was the point of my weird fact and vulnerable fact? I still have no idea what heartburn feels like. I know it sounds very uncomfortable, and if left untreated, it can do some damage to your body. I hope you have no idea what depression feels like, but by reading this, you are better equipped to start conversations with your friend, co-worker, or loved one about what they may be going through.

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