Winter Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a subtype of Major Depressive Disorder, mostly characterized by an onset of symptoms that begin annually each fall to winter with a full remission in the spring. SAD is especially common in climates where winters are more likely to be harsh.
While SAD can affect individuals of any age, older adults (65+) are more vulnerable to the changes of the seasons and may be more likely to experience seasonal depression. This is likely tied to their experiences of isolation and loneliness due to limited mobility, health issues, and lack of social support.
SAD symptoms may appear similar to other mood and depressive disorders, but will show up in the winter. The most common signs to look for are:
- Feeling sad and/or hopeless or restless and agitated
- Loss of interest in enjoyable activities
- Fatigue, brain fog, lack of energy, and difficulty concentrating
- Sleeping much more or less than usual
- Changes in weight and appetite
While many therapies exist to help combat symptoms of SAD, some are looking towards cannabis for added benefit. Recent research shows how cannabis use for alleviating anxiety and depression may have promising results. Here we will look at the specific symptoms of SAD and what research supports potentially adding cannabinoid therapy to your regimen if you or a loved one are experiencing seasonal depression.
Feeling sad and/or hopeless or restless and agitated
The serotonergic mechanism of CBD is distinct from commonly used antidepressant medications in that it does not appear to produce symptoms of withdrawal. CBD has also been shown to synergize with other serotonergic medications. Data suggests that CBD could facilitate the antidepressant effect induced by these antidepressant drugs, therefore allowing the SSRIs to be administered at lower doses, resulting in fewer side effects.
In a recently published observational study, it was found that medicinal cannabis use was associated with lower self-reported depression. Initiation of medicinal cannabis during the follow-up period was associated with significantly decreased anxiety and depressive symptoms, an effect that was not observed in Controls who had not initiated cannabis use.
Loss of interest in enjoyable activities
A qualitative analysis published in 2022 paid close attention to the notable quality of life improvements attributed to medicinal cannabis use. The two overarching categories were “enhanced well-being” and “improved daily functioning”. Enhanced well-being includes feelings such as regaining a sense of hope, enjoying family life, and laughing more often. A woman from the study with Lyme Disease was quoted saying, “People such as myself are able to become productive and valued members of society again when we can have the quality of life improved so simply.”
Fatigue, brain fog, lack of energy, and difficulty concentrating
The same 2022 qualitative analysis looked at measures of mood disorders. A 63-year-old male with anxiety and depression stated that because of his CBD use, “I can focus, remember tasks, organize better.”
Prolonged CBD therapy has shown positive improvements in psychological symptoms and cognition. Currently, using cannabinoids to benefit neurological issues and serve as a neuroprotectant is being studied. The antioxidant properties of cannabinoids, such as CBD, may have the ability to provide neuroprotection. As well, research is showing that elevation of cannabinoid receptor activity could potentially slow down the progression of brain ageing and alleviate symptoms associated with neurodegenerative disorders, therefore cannabinoids with the ability to activate receptors may provide these additional benefits.
Sleeping much more or less than usual
CBD has therapeutic properties that have the potential to mitigate symptoms that interfere with sleep. It also has the potential to improve sleep-wake cycles leading to an increase in the percentage of total quality sleep overtime.
Our circadian rhythm aligns our sleep and wakefulness with day and night to provide stability in restorative rest that enables increased daytime activity. Ongoing studies show that cannabinoids may interact with our Endocannabinoid System (ECS) in such a way that modulates our biological rhythms to promote sleep. Low doses of CBD may be associated with wakefulness to help our focus and cognition during the day. Studies show that therapeutic levels of CBD administration may increase total sleep time and decrease frequency of arousals at night – leading to an increase in total percentage of sleep overtime.
Assessed data from a 2020 published observational study looking at various quality of life measures showed that adult cannabis users had greater sleep quality, shorter sleep latency, longer sleep duration, fewer sleep disturbances, and a significantly better sleep score compared with the control group.
Changes in weight and appetite
Stress caused by sleeplessness, anxiety, and depression may be linked to poor eating habits – whether overeating or undereating. Atypical eating habits of depression to include increased appetite and food consumption accompanied with carbohydrate cravings are more common in SAD than non-seasonal depression.
CBD has been shown to regulate stress response within the body and support the reduction of compulsive behaviors, such as overeating.
In addition, the ECS plays an important role in modulating metabolism and appetite. CBD may help the browning of white adipose tissue (the process of burning fat in the body) and promote lipid metabolism. This may also help with weight gain.
When looking to cannabis for medical conditions, we always recommend speaking with a healthcare professional. However, if you are in need of support while on your journey we are here to help. From product selection to dosing guidance to answering questions your family has about your decision to choose cannabis – we are here every step of the way. Send as an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, call us at 719-347-5400 or chat with us at realmcaring.org.