Feeling down in the dumps? Low energy? In the doldrums? You might be chalking it up to the pandemic and too much time being cooped up in your home or not having resumed "normal lifestyle" – however, it may be something else: Seasonal Affective Disorder.
In the winter months, many experience their own personal doldrums, with the wind taken out of their sails. Some call it winter depression, melancholia, being down in the dumps or having the blues. Psychologists and mental health professionals have another term: Seasonal Affective Disorder, or S.A.D., for short. It’s a form of depression that usually occurs in the fall or winter as the days grow short, although some experience a reverse onset of S.A.D. in the spring. It’s estimated that roughly 5-6% of the population experiences S.A.D. each winter, and it is about four times more likely to occur in women.
Generally, S.A.D. is thought to be related to changes in body chemistry, which disrupts the body’s internal clock. It is related specifically to an imbalance or change in the levels of the “feel-good” hormone serotonin and “sleep-wake” hormone melatonin. Lack of light is generally considered a big factor, but there are other factors that can contribute to S.A.D.: The days are short; the nights are long. Cold, wintry weather leads to people spending more time indoors. Coupled with the many levels of social restrictions and considerations due to the variants of COVID, this year is prime for many to experience S.A.D. This “hibernating” instinct can turn us into couch potatoes, with low activity levels, fewer social interactions and greater social isolation. Not to mention the false satisfaction temporarily experienced through social media and virtual interactions.