SAD news to report.
An analysis from mental health counseling company Thriveworks advises that, according to online search trends, seasonal depression will reach its peak the second full week of November. That means we’re in the thick of it.
Seasonal depression was expected to peak last year in the first week of November — this year it is on track to be more intense.
“Currently, 2023’s search trends are tracking to hit 33.34% higher than in 2021 and 2.44% higher than just last year in 2022,” Thriveworks noted.
While many revel in the extra hour of sleep granted by the end of daylight saving time, the time change and earlier sunsets can lead to seasonal depression, medically referred to as seasonal affective disorder.
The condition affects about 5% of US adults, while another 10% to 20% suffer milder winter blues, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
Johns Hopkins Medicine noted that the body produces more melatonin when days are shorter and darker. The sleep-related hormone has been linked to SAD.
In its latest analysis, Thriveworks found that snow-laden cities in the Midwest, along with Idaho Falls, Idaho, Springfield, Massachusetts, Salt Lake City, Utah, and Burlington, Vermont, are especially affected.
Here’s the sad truth about SAD.
What are the symptoms of SAD?
Johns Hopkins stated that late fall is typically when most SAD symptoms emerge. They tend to taper off when summer arrives. Symptoms include:
- Increase in sleep and daytime drowsiness, along with a low energy level
- Loss of interest and pleasure in favorite activities
- Social withdrawal
- Irritability and anxiety
- Guilt and hopelessness
- Decreased sex drive
- Troubles concentrating or thinking clearly
- Hankering for carbohydrates and sweets
- Weight gain
Who is most prone to SAD?
Women are more dispositioned to SAD — as are people who tend to live farther north or south of the equator, according to the Mayo Clinic, which noted it’s likely due to lack of light.
Those with bipolar disorder are also especially prone.
Can vitamin D treat SAD?
Although the Mayo Clinic states that “there’s no known way to prevent the development of seasonal affective disorder,” sufferers can treat the side effects.
One way is by consuming vitamin D, also known as the “sunshine vitamin.”
A 2020 study in the Depression and Anxiety journal found that vitamin D supplements can reduce negative emotions.
“If you’re deficient in vitamin D, that can be related to depression, to sadness, to overeating, to lethargy,” Marwa Azab, an anxiety expert with California State University, Long Beach, told the local ABC affiliate in June.
Does light therapy work for SAD?
Hopkins recommends also spending time in the sunlight, either outside or near a window.
If that’s not possible, light therapy and artificial illumination — think 20 times the power of a standard indoor light — may help.
The Cleveland Clinic suggests staying involved in social activities and exercising 30 minutes at least three times a week, as exercise has been shown to relieve stress and anxiety.