If you feel SAD, you're not alone

If you’re struggling with the lack of daylight, you’re not alone.

About two to three per cent of Canadians will experience an illness called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a syndrome characterized by recurring depression that happens annually at the same time each year. Another 15 per cent of Canadians will experience a milder form of SAD, which leaves them feeling depressed but able to cope with life without major disruptions.

Symptoms typically surface sometime between October and December and lift sometime in March. Some people have expressed SAD symptoms in the summer as they anticipate darker, colder days approaching. The depression lasts an average of 3.9 months.

Symptoms include:

  • Feeling like you’re sleeping all the time, or that you don’t get a good night’s sleep;
  • You’re tired, making it hard to carry out daily tasks;
  • Cravings for sugary or starchy foods;
  • Weight gain;
  • Feeling sad, guilty and down on yourself, irritable, tense or stressed;
  • Avoiding people or activities you usually enjoy.

If you feel like these feelings happen to you each year and make a significant impact on your life, talk to your doctor. She or he can help determine if you suffer from SAD or other form of depression or anxiety.

Light therapy, in which patients spend hours each day sitting or working in front of artificial lights, has been shown to improve symptoms.

According to a 2015 survey of Tilray patients, of those who said they substituted prescription medications with medical cannabis, 12% indicated it was for anti-depressants, while 16% said it was for benzodiazepines. They cited three reasons for making these substitutions:

  • Fewer adverse side effects
  • Cannabis is safer
  • Cannabis provides better symptom management

The paper’s authors, UBC psychology professor Zack Walsh and Tilray’s Philippe Lucas, vice-president of global patient research and access, found these responses aligned with previous research that found patients who use medical cannabis often cite depression and anxiety as primary symptoms for which they seek relief, regardless of medical condition.

You can read more about these studies, which look at CBD and anxiety/depression, here:

Cannabidiol as a Potential Treatment for Anxiety Disorders

Cannabidiol Enhancement of Serotonergic and Glutamatergic Signalling in a Mouse Model of Depression Induces Fast and Maintained Antidepressant Actions