Surviving Winter: Seasonal depression

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Social distancing and limited contact with family impacted mental health this year. But how could the winter months compound seasonal depression?

Seasonal affective disorder is a type of depression related to changes in seasons. Less sunlight can cause mood changes, but physical activity also contributes. Restrictions on events and even video chatting due to the pandemic will have an influence this year.

Dr. Scott B. Patten, shared that too much screen time, like zoom calls, effects sleeps patterns which ultimately has consequences for depression. In a time when people are being advised to socially distance, not enough social interaction is also a big risk factor for depression.

Dr. Patten then made the segway from depression to seasonal depression and how the adaptation of daily life activities due to the pandemic could have an impact.

“Natural light is probably very good for depression, but is it is good for seasonal depression for certain. And people are probably likely to get less exposure to natural light if they are spending too much time in front of a screen indoors. So, it is, I think it’s a big cause for concern that this maybe a bigger issue in this upcoming winter.”

A seasonal pattern is required for a diagnosis and winter depression symptoms include oversleeping and increased appetite. Dr. Patten shared that light therapy is a way to fight off the impact of less daylight and explained how it works.

“Basically, the treatment usually involves thirty to 45 minutes of exposure to this light. It does not mean looking at the light, it just means having the light within your visual field. Typically, about eighteen inches away from your eyes.”

Light therapy is one form of treatment along with medication or psychotherapy but what is most important is to establish and maintain structure every day.

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