Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and COVID-19

January 25, 2021

Are you experiencing symptoms of a depressed mood, fatigue and isolation specifically in the wintertime months and noticing these symptoms seem to be absent in the spring and summer months? You may have what is called seasonal affective disorder (SAD).

Seasonal affective disorder is a form of depression that occurs at the same time every year, usually in the fall and winter months. SAD has been linked to biochemical imbalances in the brain due to shorter daylight hours and less sunlight. January and February tend to be the most difficult months for people with SAD and is found to be more common in women.

The difference between your normal winter blues and SAD, is that the symptoms you have lead you to a point where you feel you cannot function normally. Some symptoms may include but are not limited to; depressed mood, changes in appetite and sleep, weight gain, loss of energy, and difficulty concentrating. Now more than ever with COVID precautions in place, indoor dining closed, and activities you may have frequented in the winter shut down, you may be feeling these symptoms to be heightened.

For those that already have depression and also have seasonal affective disorder, having motivation can be difficult. Jan Moskowitz, LCSW at the Weinberg Family Cerebral Palsy Center at Columbia Univeristy Irving Medical Center shares a few tips to help you cope with seasonal affective disorder during COVID:

  • Engage in psychotherapy – see someone you trust and can talk too
  • Increase natural light – open your blinds and get as much sunlight as you can
  • Try to get outside - if you can get outside try to for at least 20 minutes a day
  • Take care of your regular health –  make sure you are sleeping, eating and doing your normal exercise routine
  • Talk to medical professional - if you feel your depression or SAD is not being managed, your next steps may be to talk to a medical professional 

For the CP Community, I just want to encourage you to get as much natural light as possible. A lot of the time, it’s harder to get outside when the weather gets bad due to the snow and ice, and trying to use medical equipment. But it is important with both depression and SAD, to get as much natural light as possible whether it’s just opening your window a little bit or keeping the blinds open all day, you will notice a difference. – Jan Moskowitz, LCSW

If you are experience suicidal thoughts or that your depression has become severe please call the National Suicide Prevention line 800-273-TALK (8255) or contact the nearest emergency room.