Mental health therapist says COVID-19 pandemic may have impact on seasonal affective disorder

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TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (WTWO/WAWV) – Every year, the mental health of thousands of Americans is impacted by the change in seasons. In 2020, professionals say this could be magnified because of the ongoing effects of COVID-19.

As the weather becomes colder and the amount of daylight is reduced, professionals say it can take it’s toll on your mental health.

“You hear people say the winter blues or cabin fever,” said Matthew Sullivan, FSA Counseling mental health therapist.

Sometimes what may feel just like the “winter blues” could be more. Sullivan says every year around 500,000 Americans suffer from seasonal depression or seasonal affective disorder.

“We start to see things such as maybe sadness, anxiety, irritability, loss of interest in certain activities,” Sullivan said.

According to Sullivan symptoms of seasonal depression usually begin in the fall and can worsen through the winter months.

He says as people continue to grapple with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic there is also potential for more instances of this type of depression.

“A lot of us are going through some type of possible fatigue,” Sullivan said.

In a survey earlier this year, the CDC found that 40% of U.S. adults reported they were struggling with mental health due to the pandemic, but Sullivan says there are ways to help minimize the mental health impact of the change in seasons and COVID-19.

“We want make sure that we are keeping close contact with family and friends, doing Zoom sessions like this. But also making sure you get outside at least a little bit each and every day, even if it’s a cloudy day,” Sullivan said.

According to Sullivan, research shows that three quarters of those who suffer from seasonal depression are women.

He says it typically begins to show in early adulthood but it could occur in children and teens.

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