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Manitoba’s wintry weather set to intensify seasonal affective disorder

About 15 per cent of Canadians will experience a mild form of seasonal affective disorder (SAD), the Canadian Mental Health Association says. Martin Dimitrov/Getty Images

While the season doesn’t officially begin for two weeks yet, a blast of cold air has brought winter weather to Manitoba.

Despite weeks of milder-than-normal weather, if you find you are feeling down because of the colder temperatures or shorter days, you could be suffering from seasonal affective disorder, or S.A.D.

Simply put, S.A.D. occurs when you feel sad due to the change in season.

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While it is most commonly associated with winter, Winnipeg psychologist Dr. Toby Rutner told 680 CJOB people can suffer from S.A.D. in the summer, too.

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“People who get depressed in the winter generally eat more and sleep less, whereas those who get depressed in the summer generally don’t eat so much and are more active.”

READ MORE: Manitoba in for a serious cold snap starting this weekend

It can affect your daily routine, from the times you wake up and go to sleep, to how often you leave the house, he says.

“We generally decrease social contact because it’s just not as pleasant to go outside when it’s 40 below zero,” explains Rutner.

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S.A.D. and clinical depression have several differences, he added.

“Depression can become more profound, but seasonal affective disorders improve when the season changes — clinical depression does not.”

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Your seasonal habits could also determine how likely you are to develop the disorder, he says.

“Very often, your lifestyle changes unless you’re the winter type. We go out less, we sometimes eat more, we get bored, we get cabin fever.”

However, Rutner said managing S.A.D. is relatively easy, considering there is no concrete reason why it occurs.

READ MORE: How to survive a Winnipeg winter without getting too blue

“There are various theories of why people get sad or depressed in different seasons. Some of these have to do with Vitamin D intake.”

Two treatments Rutner said are quite common are taking Vitamin D supplements, or purchasing a natural-light lamp.

“[The lamps] give you the light waves your body needs. The explanations are chemical — the light waves suppress melatonin, which then affects the serotonin in your brain.”
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Rutner adds the good news for S.A.D. sufferers is that it’s seasonal — it clears up when the seasons shift once again.

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