Are You Or Your Teen Suffering From Unexplained Depression In The Winter?

Written by: Claudine Simone • January 23rd, 2023

Seasonal Affective Disorder - SAD

You or your teen could be experiencing Seasonal Affective Disorder; also known as SAD.  So basically, during the darker days of winter, more people report feeling depressed and tired.


For many, it’s a normal response to less sunlight, called the winter blues, but for others, it can be a clinical form of depression called seasonal affective disorder.

Do you feel like something is wrong with you? Are you feeling that family and friends don't understand?    Perhaps, family and friends may be telling you to get over it and stop complaining over the weather.  Perhaps, you don’t understand what is wrong with your teen. This can make you feel even more hopefulness, sad and frustrated.


I know from my own personal experience dealing with SAD.  As a teen, I recognized something wasn't right; every fall I would get extremely depressed and it would last until the spring.  Initially, I would just push myself through the winter months and thought that there must be something wrong with me.  I didn’t talk to anyone about, nor did I think there was help for it.  In my late 20’s, after a decade of suffering, I did some research and finally got some answers.  There was a reason why I was depressed, it was the lack of sun exposure. Did you know that when sunlight enters your eyes, it stimulates the parts of your retina that then cue your brain to produce serotonin. Serotonin plays a role in regulating mood, emotions, appetite, and digestion.  In short serotonin is the "feel good" drug that you lack and need to feel motivated and happy.   
The percentage of Canadians who suffer from seasonal affective disorder (SAD) varies depending on the source, but some estimates suggest that it affects around 5% of the population. However, other estimates suggest that it may be as high as 14% of the population. It is more common among women than men and typically begins in young adulthood. Additionally, it's more common in people who live farther away from the equator, where there are shorter daylight hours during the winter months.
It's worth noting that many people may experience milder symptoms of SAD, often referred to as the "winter blues," which may not meet the criteria for a full diagnosis of SAD.

Symptoms of seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) to look out for include:


  • Feelings of sadness, hopelessness, or worthlessness
  • Loss of interest in activities that were once enjoyable
  • Difficulty concentrating or making decisions
  • Changes in appetite, often leading to weight gain, craving carbohydrates
  • Changes in sleep patterns, such as difficulty sleeping or oversleeping
  • Low energy or fatigue
  • Social withdrawal or isolation
  • Feelings of guilt or shame
  • Thoughts of death or suicide


It's worth noting that these symptoms can be similar to those of other types of depression, so it's important to consult with a mental health professional for an accurate diagnosis.

There are things that you can do to help lessen the symptoms of SAD or even the winter blues.  It takes routine and consistency but there is hope.  Many of my clients didn’t realize that there were tools to manage SAD.  This is what I hear from my teen and adult clients “This has been the best winter I have ever had!”


Here are my top 10 tips on how to manage seasonal affective disorder (SAD):


  1. Get as much natural light as possible: Try to spend time outside during the day, especially when the sun is shining. I bought a four legged friend, just so I would be forced to get outside two to three times a day. If possible, open the curtains or blinds in your home to let in natural light.
  2. Use a light box: Light therapy, Top light therapy boxes for 2023, involves sitting in front of a special light box that emits bright light, it mimics the sun. Using this light before 3pm is ideal.  While checking emails, working or having meal or morning coffee is a great time.
  3. Exercise regularly: Physical activity will boost your mood and energy levels. 
  4. Eat a healthy diet: A balanced diet that includes plenty of fruits and vegetables can help improve mood and energy levels.
  5. Stay connected: SAD can make you want to withdraw from social activities, but staying connected with friends and family can help boost mood.
  6. Practice relaxation techniques: Yoga, meditation, and deep breathing can help reduce stress and improve mood.
  7. Create a warm and cozy space: Make your home a warm and cozy space with warm lighting, comforting scents and soft blankets.
  8. Start taking vitamin D early in the fall.  It is also a good idea to have your D levels checked.  Studies have some that low vitamin D can contribute to SAD.
  9. Therapy can help.Just like anyone with depression, talk therapy, particularly cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT), can effectively treat SAD.
  10. Float deprivation tanks are also great to reduce cortisol and stimulate dopamine and serotonin.


It's important to remember that everyone's experience with SAD is different, and what works for one person may not work for another. It may take some trial and error to find the best strategies for managing your symptoms.  Lastly some people may need medication.

"Not 'till we are lost, do we begin to find ourselves!"

- Thoreau