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Seasonal Affective Disorder and COVID-19: Double Whammy

If your mood is beginning to change as it gets colder, you’re not alone.

What is Seasonal Affective Disorder?

Seasonal Affective Disorder, often known as SAD, is a type of depression associated with the changing of seasons. Typically, it comes at the same time each year, starting in the fall, worsening through winter, and ending during spring.

Between 4% and 6% of Americans face SAD. Additionally, 75% of sufferers are women, with onset usually occurring in early adulthood. Although SAD can occur in individuals of all ages, it is most common in young adults, and the risk decreases with age. SAD is also more common among people who live in northern regions, as their winters are both longer and colder.

Seasonal Affective Disorder Symptoms

Symptoms of SAD include chronic low mood, irritability, anxiety, and low self-esteem. Moreover, neglecting these symptoms will solely worsen them.

COVID-19’s Impact on SAD

The chaos, stress, and uncertainty surrounding COVID-19 certainly may contribute to and/or heighten SAD symptoms. That is, the raging pandemic has unsurprisingly lead to increased stress, depression, fear, and anxiety. And research confirms just that. For instance, KFF Health Tracking Poll found that 53% of U.S. adults have felt that pandemic-related anxiety has had negative effects on their mental health. When compared to previous data, there’s a clear surge; in general, approximately 26% of Americans experience mental disorders. Moreover, these numbers showed that 18% of people suffer from anxiety disorders each typical year.

One study finds that some of the key causes of depression are isolation, loneliness, and a lack of social support. Additionally, a 2020 study on social isolation demonstrates that depressive symptoms are associated with a lack of social interaction as well as pair-wise interactions instead of group connections. Considering our current lack of socialization ability and chronic stress, COVID-19 will likely not only increase ones likelihood of experiencing SAD, but also intensify symptoms.

What Can You Do?

The most effective form of treating SAD consists of the same treatments of other types of depression: talk therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, and antidepressants. Additionally, researchers have found that light therapy may be effective. This involves the individual being exposed to what’s called a light-therapy box, which mimics natural sunlight. The result is that habitual exposure tricks the brain into thinking it’s actually not winter. Furthermore, the added light helps balance the chemicals associated with depression.

Other ways in which you can manage SAD symptoms are quite simple. For instance, Hartford Healthcare recommends regular exercise, natural sunlight, not overworking, maintaining regular sleep schedules, and sustaining a balanced diet.

“It’s more important than ever to push yourself to stay engaged with activities you enjoy and stay connected with people as best as you can. To do otherwise is a recipe for disaster.”

Dr. Kelly Rohan, The New York Times

Featured Image by Bruno Bueno from Pexels.

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