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The Cannvas Health Advocate Team aims to provide education around Seasonal Affective Disorder and related conditions, and a deeper understanding of potential alternative treatments through medical and scientific research as well as real-life patient and caregiver stories. Join the CHAT to help spread awareness and learn how your story can help make a difference.

Defined as a type of disorder in which recurrent episodes of depression occur in the same season of every year, seasonal affective disorder has one of the most fitting acronyms of any ailment: SAD. Sometimes referred to as “winter blues,” there are two types of SAD, with the most common being characterized by a seasonal pattern of depression that begins in the winter and lasts until spring. The other, much less common condition, typically begins in late summer and is triggered by changes in the amount of sunlight that a person inputs.

Though contingent on external factors for its existence, SAD has similar symptoms to any other type of depression: feelings of hopelessness, hypersomnia or oversleeping, appetite loss or cravings for sweets and starchy foods, weight gain, low energy levels, fatigue, withdrawal from friends and family, irritability, decreased physical activity and, at its worst, thoughts of suicide.

The statistics for this disorder are somewhat alarming. Currently, SAD is estimated to affect 10million Americans, while another 10-20 million are said to have a mild form of the disorder, with symptoms presenting more often in women than men, and six percent of people requiring hospitalization for treatment every year. In Canada, SAD affects about two to three percent of the population, with another 15 percent becoming slightly depressed when the cold season dawns.
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December brings with it a flurry of things to be grateful for: the first snowfalls, the holiday season, time with family and friends, and a reprieve from the hustle and bustle that characterizes most every other month of the year. But for people who suffer from seasonal affective disorder, December can also mean the beginning of an annual depression that starts when winter first flexes its icy grip on the human psyche.