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Description: What is Seasonal Affective Disorder? What causes it and how can it be managed or treated? The further north we live the less light we have in winter and as well, the further north we live the colder and snowier our winters are. So, is it that case that some people experience a drop in their mood in the winter because winter itself is depressing? I like to use the term Winter Molasses to describe what winter feels like to me at least. How would you answer the questions back up at the top of this paragraph? Once you have put your thought together have a look through the article linked below to see a light touch overview of current psychology on this topic.

Source: Seasonal affective disorder can last for months. Here are the signs. Lindsey Bever, and Lauren Tierny, The Washington Post.

Date: January 12, 2023

Image by Stephan Keller from Pixabay

Article Link:

The linked article originated in the United States and so its consideration of the role latitudinal variation in light levels ends at the 49th parallel with 8 to 8.5 hours of daylight at the winter solstice. Canadian cities are mostly further north so while Toronto has just under 9 hours of daylight at the winter solstice, Winipeg has just over 8 hours, Regina has about 8 hours, Calgary has under 8 hours and Yellowknife has just under 5 hours of daylight on the winter solstice. Given this it will not surprise you to hear that SAD rates are higher in Canada than in the USA. The data on light therapy is significant and positive and well worth looking at if you think you might have symptoms of SAD, with professional assistance of course. All that said, it may also be that there is more going on here than lower light levels. People who enjoy winter sports and related activities seem to do a bit better in the darker months of winter. This would suggest that it makes sense to have winter festivals that get people out and about in winter and, perhaps, improve peoples’ moods. SO, look up the Quebec Winter Carnival and go and meet Bonne Homme or take in the Snow Days Festival in Banff National Park, Vancouver’s Dine Out Festival or perhaps Fernie’s Griz Days and take some of the mood bite out of Winter!

Questions for Reflection and/or Discussion:

  1. What are some of the signs of Seasonal Affective Disorder?
  2. What are some of the possible causes of Seasonal Affective Disorder?
  3. What are some of the self-administrable ways to cope with SAD and what are some of the more professional treatment options?

References (Read Further):

Fernandez, D. C., Fogerson, P. M., Ospri, L. L., Thomsen, M. B., Layne, R. M., Severin, D., … & Hattar, S. (2018). Light affects mood and learning through distinct retina-brain pathways. Cell, 175(1), 71-84. Link

Vetter, C. (2020). Circadian disruption: what do we actually mean?. European Journal of Neuroscience, 51(1), 531-550. Link

Partonen, T., & Lönnqvist, J. (1998). Seasonal affective disorder. The Lancet, 352(9137), 1369-1374. Link

Kurlansik, S. L., & Ibay, A. D. (2012). Seasonal affective disorder. American family physician, 86(11), 1037-1041. Link

Melrose, S. (2015). Seasonal affective disorder: an overview of assessment and treatment approaches. Depression research and treatment, 2015. Link

Mersch, P. P. A., Middendorp, H. M., Bouhuys, A. L., Beersma, D. G., & van den Hoofdakker, R. H. (1999). Seasonal affective disorder and latitude: a review of the literature. Journal of affective disorders, 53(1), 35-48. Link

Levitan, R. D. (2022). The chronobiology and neurobiology of winter seasonal affective disorder. Dialogues in clinical neuroscience. Link

Nussbaumer, B., Kaminski‐Hartenthaler, A., Forneris, C. A., Morgan, L. C., Sonis, J. H., Gaynes, B. N., … & Gartlehner, G. (2015). Light therapy for preventing seasonal affective disorder. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, (11). Link

Pjrek, E., Friedrich, M. E., Cambioli, L., Dold, M., Jäger, F., Komorowski, A., … & Winkler, D. (2020). The efficacy of light therapy in the treatment of seasonal affective disorder: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics, 89(1), 17-24. Link

Meesters, Y., & Gordijn, M. C. (2016). Seasonal affective disorder, winter type: current insights and treatment options. Psychology research and behavior management, 317-327. Link