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Is Covid Making Seasonal Depression Worse?

Is Covid Making Seasonal Depression Worse?

What is SAD?

Did you know that the “winter blues” are a real thing?

Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, is the onset of depressive symptoms when the seasons change. Most often it begins at the start of winter: days are darker, the temperature is colder, and the holidays are right around the corner (for some the holidays may serve as a reminder of turmoil or loneliness/grief.)

With Covid-19 still running strong, we have new challenges as well. Fear, uncertainty, and social distancing are working together to give SAD sufferers one of the hardest winters yet. The social connections that can often help us through bad times seem to have disappeared with distrust and ongoing isolation taking its place.

Do I have SAD?

According to medical publication Yale Medicine, symptoms of winter SAD include, “poor mood, low energy, excessive sleepiness during the day, craving carbohydrates, over-eating and gaining weight, and social withdrawal.”

To understand how to overcome this formidable foe to our happiness, we need first to understand why SAD occurs.


Around 5% of US adults experience full-on SAD. Approximately 15% notice a more subtle drop in their mood when the season changes. While no statistics are projected, we can only imagine this year to be a little higher.

Actually, doctors and scientists are not totally sure what causes SAD. However, there is some agreement that one factor plays an important role: less natural sunlight, exacerbated by more time indoors because of cold temperatures.

Sunlight is important for our body’s natural rhythm. It structures our sleeping patterns by signaling when the brain should release melatonin, a chemical that causes sleepiness at nighttime. We also get most of our vitamin D from the sun, which has a mood-boosting effect.

How can we overcome SAD?

Depression can seem like there’s no way out of the gray mood and heavy malaise. But there are measures you can take to minimize symptoms and get the most out of life for the rest of 2020 - as challenging of a year as it’s been.

  • Supplement with vitamin D. Some foods rich with it, like salmon and eggs. Other items are fortified with it, most notably milk. If all else fails try a vitamin D supplement from a trusted company.

  • Structure your day with exercise. It doesn’t have to be vigorous, formal exercise. But schedule times in the day for activities that require some physical activity. Take up yoga, play ball with the kids, try Peloton. The more you structure your day like this, the more purpose and energy you’ll have when you are awake.

  • Lighten things up. Turn on lights around the house during daytime hours. The effect this has on mood is energizing. Or if you want to, perhaps try light therapy. This involves sitting by a therapeutic “lightbox” in the morning, that mimics the intensity of sunlight. The body’s reaction is to interrupt the production of melatonin, reducing sleepiness and fatigue during daytime hours.

  • Be social - even if from a distance! Sure Covid is still going around, but that doesn’t mean you can’t talk to friends and family over video chat or meet responsibly with a trusted bubble of loved ones. Maintaining social interactions during a bout of SAD - especially this year! - can work wonders on our mood.

SAD might feel inescapable. But it is not the end of the world. If it becomes too much to handle, please reach out for professional help. Bregman Medical Group offers secure telepsychiatry and teletherapy right to your device. Simple schedule an appointment at or call 305-740-3340.


By BregmanMD | December 18, 2020 | Mental Health

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