Sample Healthcare Paper on Analyzing Seasonal Affective Disorder

Defining SAD

As the levels of sunlight lower during the short and dark days of winter tide, many people among them being international students in Canada struggle with SAD (seasonal affective disorder) where they are afflicted with feelings of loss of energy and sadness, especially during January, February, and December (National Institute of Mental Health,2016). The seasonal affective disorder is not as a specific diagnostic entity, rather, it is a form of depression that recurs itself following a certain pattern of seasons. Though low mood and energy levels during the wintertime are always expected part of life particularly to those living far much away from the equator, such experiences were first recognized as treatable health conditions in the early 1980s.  As defined by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the seasonal affective disorder is a health criterion characterized by a seasonal series of depressions, which commences and ends during a particular season of each year. Nevertheless, in some instances, the number of depressional situations may exceed the number of seasons when depression is expected although, despite the frequent occurrence in winter, they can also take place during the summers. As a result of this situation, the affected people experience difficulties in adjusting their neurotransmitter serotonin, which is in charge of balancing their physical and emotional moods. Therefore, for the SAD victims, their body signals that indicate changes in day length are found to be timed differently hence making it hard for their bodies to adjust to the seasonal changes.



Body of the Report

Causes of SAD

For a long period, the exact cause of SAD remains ambiguous though some contemporary clinical scientists are seeking to determine the exact cause by associating the disorder to certain human hormones found deep in the brain that triggers altitude-related alterations at particular times of a year. In human beings, activities are minimal during the winter seasons and this is due to the reduction of sunlight, available food and the cold weather that negatively affects people’s survival in cold regions. The presence of less sunlight during the falls and winters is one of the theories used by scientists to explain the causes of SAD. In the theory, Williams (2006) argues that the inadequate sunlight impacts the extent to which the brain makes serotonin and the less the sunlight, the less the amount of serotonin produced. Consequently, the brain-based cell pathways that regulate human moods will not function normally thus leading to depression feelings together with weight gain and fatigue. The seasonal affective disorder usually begins right after adolescence and is somehow more common in females than in their male counterparts. Since SAD and inadequate daylight during winter is related, the disorder is often found in geographical regions with plenty of sunshine in a year. Another theory that attempts to explain the causes of SAD is connected to melatonin, which is generated in darkness and dim light by the pineal gland and since there is a correlation between the pineal gland and human eye’s retina, melatonin is controlled by the circadian clock although it can also be concealed by blue right.

Signs and Symptoms of SAD

In many instances, the signs and symptoms of seasonal affective disorder appear during the early winter or the late fall and disappear during the hot days of either summer or spring. In all cases, the signs and symptoms of the disorder start lenient and become more severe as the cold period progresses. Being a depressive disorder, sufferers of SAD may exhibit any of these associated symptoms among them being thoughts of suicide, lack of interest in activities and events, feelings of hopelessness, withdrawal from social relationships, sleep and appetite loss, difficulty in making decisions and lack of energy among others (National Institute of Mental Health,2016). Besides, the sufferer may also develop abnormal behaviors such as oversleeping, nausea, tendency to overeat and a craving for carbohydrates and in one way or another, these behaviors may lead to weight gain and obesity. Therefore, individuals who feel depressed and regularly exhibits some of the above signs and symptoms should seek medical attention from qualified medical practitioners and the right form of treatment would be recommended for the.

Treatments for SAD

There are many and different treatment approaches for seasonal affective disorder, depending on the mildness and severity of the patient’s symptoms. Ancient antidepressants are in many instances used to treat SAD, bupropion being the only medication approved by the Food and Drug Administration specifically to curb major depressive situations in SAD victims. However, patients are encouraged to first try the antidepressant that will improve their health condition without causing other additional side effects. Besides, the majority of medical practitioners always recommend that SAD victims should look for more natural light, which Sara (2007) refers to as light therapy treatment since it may help them improve their health condition. This can be perfectly achieved when the patient will adopt the habit of sitting in front of a lightbox particularly in the morning hours.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy is a form of psychotherapy effective for the treatment of seasonal affective disorders. This approach relies on basic techniques of behavioral therapy such as the identification of negative thoughts and where possible, replacing them with positive ideas. For effective outcomes, the psychotherapy approach is used in conjunction with the behavioral activation technique, which helps the affected person identify physical activities that are more demanding and pleasurable thus improving the way the patient copes up with the cold seasons. Vitamin D supplementation is another treatment approach although it is not highly regarded to be among the effective SAD treatments (National Institute of Mental Health,2016). However, the reason behind its application many SAD patients are found to have low levels of vitamin D within their bodies, which is associated with either insufficient exposure to natural light or insufficient dietary intake. Nevertheless, taking care of general wellness and health might also help SAD patients improve their health conditions through regular exercises and healthy eating among other physical approaches.

International Students in Canada and Their Common problems

Recently, the number of international students enrolling in Canadian universities is increasing and this is because of the recent surveys that have ranked most of the Canadian universities to be among the best institutions of higher learning across the world. The possibility of getting a permanent residency after they complete their education is another reason that has been pushing international students to prefer Canadian universities over other universities from various segments of the world. However, during their study in Canada, these international students encounter several challenges that may ruin their life if an urgent solution is not provided against those problems. Moreover, during their stay in Canada, little is known about their well-being and mental health and there is a tendency that these students encounter several psychological problems that in one way or another affect their academic performance. Among the elements that influence their health and wellbeing include cultural shock, unfavorable climatic conditions, feeling alienated, integration of their families and accessing the labor market among other difficulties. It becomes difficult for them to socialize in the alien country thus making them feel socially alienated and therefore they begin developing feelings of unworthiness and hopelessness. Consequently, Canadian life becomes difficult for them and it is evident that the majority of international students in Canada suffer from seasonal affective disorders in almost all winter seasons.

Effects of Seasonal Effective Disorders on Student:


Signs and symptoms of SAD are well described in students and has a direct effect on their academic performance. It is to a large extent that seasonal affective disorder affects students and their academic performances due to the negative moods and minimal motivations that the disorder poses to their education. Presenting symptoms in students are highly linked to school dysfunction including loss of desire to engage in social activities, memory impairment, difficulty in writing and finally reduction in academic achievement. Students with seasonal effectiveness disorder typically experience various school-related problems among them being decreased concentration, creativity, productivity, inability to complete assignments and increased absences from schools which may simply make the affected student drop out of school.


The seasonal affective disorder can be attributed to the loss of interest in relationships or physical contact among students and if proper action is not taken against them, it can result in both social and relationship problems. A student with SAD is bad-tempered and may not want to have close contact with fellow students and it is difficult for such students to enjoy things that make one happy like holiday trips and holidays with close friends and relatives. This encounter is true especially when the suffering student does not understand the cause of the disorder and feels hopeless and very easily withdrawal from social relationships and interactions that might help come out of the situation.


In summary, the seasonal affective disorder is a form of depressions that affects the well-being of the victim at similar times of the year. People with SAD experience low energy and bad mood to the extent that it becomes difficult for them to perform routine roles and responsibilities. People who live far away from the equator are always at risk due to the consistent cold seasons characterized by less sunlight since sunlight plays a vital role in reducing serotonin activity. Symptoms such as fatigue, depression and minimal interest in social activities characterize the disorder although there are some treatment approaches such as light therapy and medication that are established to help SAD victims fight the disorder because of it its negative effects on education and relationship among other social affairs.



National Institute of Mental Health. (2016). Seasonal Affective Disorder. Retrieved From:

Sara, R. (2007). A Self-Care Guide to Winter Ills. The Journal for Nurses in General Practice,34(10), 16-17.

Williams, N. (2006). 10 Tips On … Seasonal Affective Disorder. The Journal for Nurses in General Practice, 32(6), 24-27.