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As COVID-19 cases continue to rise throughout the United States, this undoubtedly is going to be a difficult winter.
While COVID-19 has already brought about a multitude of problems, such as unemployment, social isolation, and a fear of the unknown, growing evidence unfortunately is finding that things may only get worse in the coming winter months.
David Relman, a microbiologist at Stanford University, stated that “this virus is going to have a heyday” because of what we already know about the ways in which the virus spreads and how people behave in colder months.
On top of everything, people who have struggled with seasonal affective disorder, fittingly referred to as SAD, are going to face a double whammy this year with the current state of the pandemic.
Although many people often begin to feel down as the days become shorter and the weather becomes colder, it is important to recognize the severity of this specific type of seasonal depression.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, about 5% of the U.S. population experiences seasonal depression. Millions of additional Americans may suffer from SAD, but may not realize that they have the condition.
SAD is recognized as a form of depression characterized by a recurrent seasonal pattern. Typically, seasonal affective disorder begins in the late fall or early winter and goes away by the summer. To be diagnosed with SAD, an individual must meet the following criteria:
Seasonal affective disorder affects many individuals in cold climates but these tips and tricks just might help defeat the cabin fever
Many of the symptoms associated with SAD are the same as those for major depressive disorder: feeling depressed most of the day and nearly every day, loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed, changes in appetite or weight, sleep difficulties, fatigue, agitation, low energy, feeling hopeless or worthless, difficulty concentrating, and frequent thoughts of death or suicide.
Though seasonal affective disorder can be extremely debilitating, fortunately, there are a few treatments for the disorder that have proved to be effective. The four main treatments may be used alone or in combination, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.
Many suspect that this year may result in an increase of SAD symptoms for individuals who have never experienced seasonal depression before. With an increase in general depressive symptoms because of the effects of COVID-19, the addition of cold winter months may create an even greater feeling of isolation.
Isolation is a large risk factor for depression and with the added stressors of job loss, lack of routine, and changes in schooling, everyone should be thinking about ways that they can combat these feelings of depression and/or anxiety this winter.
If you’re starting to feel the weight of both COVID-19 difficulties and seasonal depressive symptoms, you are not alone. Winter is hard, but winter with a pandemic is harder. Here are some resources for reaching out for help:
Better Help: an affordable, private, online option for counseling
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255, 24 hours a day, seven days a week
Crisis Text Line: Text “HELLO” to 741741