(AscendHealthy.com) – For anyone with mental health challenges, being in the middle of a pandemic might make everyday life more of a struggle. Now that the fall season is upon us, some sufferers of one mental health condition might notice that their symptoms are worse this year. Let’s take a closer look at how the pandemic might make seasonal affective disorder (SAD) more difficult.
See How the Pandemic Affects Seasonal Affective Disorder.
What is Seasonal Affective Disorder?
Nearly 5% of the adults in the United States experience SAD, and it lasts approximately 40% of the year. It’s most commonly associated with the fall and winter months in most of the people who experience it, although there is a rare “reverse SAD” condition that affects certain people during spring and summer, as well.
Fewer daylight hours and less sunlight may shift a person’s biological clock, leading to trouble sleeping, waking up too early and feeling tired during the day. The disruption in the sleep schedule may prompt an imbalance of chemicals in the brain and lead to SAD, according to the American Psychiatric Association.
What Kind of Risk Factors Are Seen With SAD?
According to the National Institutes of Health, some specific risk factors may increase a person’s chances of developing SAD, including having a family history of depression, being a young adult and being female. Having a history of bipolar disorder or depression can also affect whether a person develops seasonal affective disorder, too.
The pandemic might be another risk factor because of the additional stress it puts on people who may already be susceptible to mental health issues. Whether they’ve contracted the virus, know someone who has, or are simply concerned about the overall state of the country or the world during this time, adding to their worries often makes SAD more prominent in their life.
The Pandemic’s Effect on the Severity of SAD
The major life traumas, stressors, and changes the pandemic has inflicted have increased the cases of mental health conditions and related issues. That’s important to note because SAD is one of the conditions that has seen an increase in cases during the pandemic. In northern areas of the country, where the winters are harsher, and in areas where COVID-19 infection rates are particularly high, the incidence of SAD may be higher than in areas where winters are typically warmer or infection rates are low.
One concern for those who have SAD is that they often withdraw during this time and lose interest in activities. Coupled with social distancing, that might take its toll on their mental health and also keep them from seeking the help and support they need to make it through a difficult time. Staying in touch with family and friends through Zoom calls and social media can help sufferers feel more connected.
Seasonal affective disorder isn’t easy, and the pandemic may make it worse. If you or a loved one are experiencing symptoms of SAD, it’s important to reach out to your healthcare professional. For anyone in crisis, the National Mental Health HelpLine is 1-800-662-4357 (HELP).
~Here’s to Your Healthy Ascension
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