BY MICHELLE MAISONVILLE
Winter is coming and the days are becoming shorter. The nights are long, it’s cold and many people don’t spend a lot of time outside. For a lot of people this brings the “winter blahs” but for some people the effects go deeper.
Lynn Robbins White, a Conestoga College counsellor, said oftentimes people get the “winter blahs” due to blue days and lack of sunlight.
“That kind of thing does have some effect for most people,” she said.
However, seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is more serious. It’s a type of depression that follows a seasonal pattern. People affected by SAD may have depression throughout the year but have a heightened depression from late autumn to early spring.
“SAD is a noticeable shift in mood, generally caused by the lack of light and for some people (it has) a real impact on their daily activities,” she said. “It can really be debilitating.”
The Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) reports that two to three per cent of the population in Ontario is affected by SAD and 15 per cent report having a less severe experience, often described as the “winter blues.”
They also found that some children and teenagers may be affected but it tends to begin in people over the age of 20 and risk decreases with age. Women have been found to be affected more than men, in fact, 80 per cent are women.
According to the CMHA, there is no confirmed cause but it is believed to be related to seasonal variations in light.
People with SAD report a decrease in energy, a change in appetite, a tendency to oversleep, a decrease in social outings and feelings of anxiety, despair or hopelessness.
Elizaveta Astakhova, a third-year business administration supply chain and operations management student, didn’t think the Canadian winter would affect her when she moved from Los Angeles, after all, she’s originally from Russia, but it does.
“I feel more down in the winter, I just hate it. It makes me anxious knowing that winter’s coming,” she said.
Astakhova said as soon as winter starts she can’t wait for it to be over. She also said when she finishes college she plans on moving somewhere warmer.
“It’s not that I don’t like Canada, it’s just that I don’t like the weather,” she said.
Robbins White said treatment for SAD can be little things like getting more exercise, monitoring diet and sleep patterns and getting more light.
Treatment for people more severely affected include light therapy or medication if necessary.
Robbins White said anyone dealing with SAD or people who may be feeling a little “blue” can visit Counselling Services on campus.
“I know my students have a more productive winter when they get the help they need,” she said.