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What to do when you’re feeling SAD

Virtual care · Mar 23, 2022

Much like plants and animals, humans can also be affected by changes in the weather. Not to be confused with a mild case of “winter blues”, there is a name for that persistent low feeling that can accompany us well into the springtime and beyond – it’s called SAD. 

What is SAD?

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) or Seasonal Depression is a type of depression that is believed to be linked to the change of seasons and exposure to sunlight. 

In the winter months where days are shorter and sunlight becomes more scarce, some people may begin to notice that their mood and energy are negatively affected. Though SAD is most commonly diagnosed in the fall and winter, people can also experience it in the spring and summer months. 

According to the Canadian Psychological Association, “it is estimated that SAD makes up 10% of all reported cases of depression. Approximately 15% of Canadians will report at least a mild case of SAD in their lifetime, while 2-3% will report serious cases.” Though the condition seems to be triggered by the change of seasons, the Canadian Mental Health Association suggests it may run in the family, as 13-17% of people who develop SAD also have an immediate family member with the disorder.

What are the symptoms of SAD?

Many of the symptoms of SAD are similar to those of depression and can be experienced at varying degrees by the affected person. In some cases, SAD can cause mood changes that are more serious and can affect a person’s ability to function and participate in daily activities. If you notice that your symptoms impede on your enjoyment of your regular routine and occur on a recurring basis every year, you may suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder. 

Some examples of symptoms of SAD include: 

  • Significant fluctuations in weight (loss or gain)

  • Irritability and mood swings

  • Trouble falling and staying asleep or oversleeping

  • Agitation or low energy

  • Loss of motivation and interest in activities

  • Feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness, despair

  • Inability to concentrate or make decisions

  • Withdrawal from friends and family

  • Suicidal thoughts

If you think that you may be suffering from SAD, speak to a TELUS Health Virtual Care healthcare professional or a mental health specialist about your concerns. They will be able to properly assess your situation and determine whether your symptoms meet the criteria of a SAD diagnosis. 

How is SAD treated?

Depending on the severity of symptoms, there are many different approaches to treatment and management of SAD. Some of these options include: 

  • Regular outdoor activities and exercise

  • Diet (paying attention to vitamin D intake)

  • Medication 

  • Psychotherapy and counseling (cognitive-behavioural therapy, CBT)

  • Light therapy

In order to make a treatment decision that is best suited for your situation, consult with a healthcare professional through your local clinic or Virtual Care service.

If you need immediate assistance

If you are experiencing severe symptoms and are in distress, please go to your nearest hospital emergency room or contact:

Canada Suicide Prevention Service toll-free at 1-833-456-4566. You also can send a text to 45645.

Crisis Text Line serves anyone, in any type of crisis, providing access to free, 24/7 support via text. Text HOME to 741741 to reach a trained crisis counsellor. 


This content was created for informational purposes only, and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have or for any medical assistance you may need.

TELUS Health Virtual Care offers on-demand access to primary physical and mental health care to help Canadians across the country live healthier lives. For more information on our virtual care services, visit our website.