SAD for the season

The impact of Seasonal Affective Disorder on people during COVID-19


Someone struggling with depression

Seasonal Affective Disorder, also known as SAD, is a type of depression linked with the time of year. Websters Dictionary briefly describes it as, “depression that tends to recur chiefly during the late fall and winter and is associated with shorter hours of daylight.” While some people can find comfort in the holiday season and everything that comes with it, for those with SAD, the short, dim days, and cold, unrelenting weather brings a dark time for their mental health. Symptoms of the illness may include having low energy, problems sleeping, difficulty concentrating, a feeling of hopelessness, among other things. Those who have been diagnosed or are accustom to its cycle are now preparing as Winter begins, but another variable has been tossed in the mix this year: COVID-19.  

Before delving into how COVID-19 could affect the general population when it comes to Seasonal Affective Disorder, it is good to get a good grasp on what exactly it is. The National Institute of Mental Health, or the NIMH, described SAD in an online article. “SAD is not considered a separate disorder but is a type of depression characterized by its recurrent seasonal pattern, with symptoms lasting about 4 to 5 months per year. Therefore, the signs and symptoms of SAD include those associated with major depression…” For those who believe that Seasonal Affective Disorder is just “feeling down during the winter,” there is much more to it. It is an actual mental illness and can be just as severe as regular depression.  

Verywell Mindan online wellness website, published an article discussing the topic of how COVID-19 will affect those with seasonal depression. “Dealing with SAD during a pandemic that limits social interaction, many people are experiencing increased tension and anxiety. Additionally, job loss and changes in schooling for families may cause depression symptoms to worsen,” states the article. It is mentioned that people do not know for certain just how much the Coronavirus will affect those with Seasonal Affective Disorder because it is the first Winter with it as a factor, but speculations can be made.  

Something else to consider is the possible increase in cases, both diagnosed and undiagnosed., a news publication with an online platform, speaks to this fact. They explain that social interaction is one of the best ways to combat Seasonal Affective Disorder, but with COVID-19 restrictions and rules, social interactions and public gatherings are very limited. Although SAD’s numbers may increase this year, the mentioned article also offers ways to cope and manage the winter blues. “Maintain routines. Sleep, wake, and eat on a regular schedule. Exercise often… Connect with other people. If you are craving Zoom parties, schedule them.” The piece also gives other advice including maintaining an active lifestyle, spending time in the sunlight, and if needed, seeking professional help.  

While the combination of COVID-19 and Seasonal Affective Disorder can make this winter especially hard for some people, those with SAD do not have to suffer. Using coping mechanisms and following advice given by medical professionals can be extremely beneficial for those with the disorder. Seeking medical attention is also a very good option for those that feel like they cannot handle SAD on their own. This winter does not have to be a sad one