NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Setting the clocks back this weekend means the return of depressing darkness by late afternoon.
Seasonal affective disorder during winter months affects as many as 10 million people – four times as many women as men. This year, it might be even worse, CBS2’s Dr. Max Gomez reported Thursday.
Season affective disorder, appropriately shortened to “SAD,” is a depression triggered by lack of sunlight in the fall and winter that changes some people’s brain chemistry.
This year, when added to other depression triggers – an out of control pandemic, loss of most human contact with lockdowns and a contentious election – SAD could be worse than usual.
“I do suffer with the winter blues when it’s constantly dark in the mornings and in the evenings,” one woman said.
Based on social media postings, she’s not alone. But, it may be more than the winter blues.
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Seasonal affective disorder can show up as low energy, trouble sleeping, difficulty concentrating and outright clinical depression.
If you know you’re susceptible, now is the time to take action.
Regular exercise – almost any type – has a positive impact on brain chemistry and mood. Plan and maintain social connections, which these days means mostly Zoom interactions, but even virtual contact can be helpful.
Believe it or not, keeping busy with a structured schedule is beneficial, too.
“Schedule your days in blocks of time with meaningful, purposeful, recreational, interpersonal connecting sorts of activities. Commit yourself to those activities. That gets you out of you mind, where a lot of the misery occurs, into your real life and we know that that changes what our brain does biologically,” said Dr. Scott Bea of the Cleveland Clinic.
One remedy that’s helped a lot of people is called a therapy light – a very bright light that mimics natural sunlight.
If none of the above helps, seek professional help. Medications and talk therapy can ease you out of what could be serious depression.
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