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Experts say season depression can be heightened during pandemic

Seasonal affective disorder
Seasonal affective disorder(KFYR)
Published: Oct. 29, 2020 at 6:07 PM CDT
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BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) - Seasonal affective disorder is relatively common in North Dakota because of long, cold, and dark winters. That, coupled with a pandemic, can lead to bouts of depression.

Neuropsychologists say some have a predisposition to mental illnesses like depression, but they can be triggered by environmental changes that come with winter.

Doctors say the pandemic can act as a trigger in itself, making those who are prone to seasonal depression feel worse. Plus, those who don’t typically have seasonal depression might experience it for the first time. Seasonal changes bring shifts in habits and feelings.

“I’m a morning person. I prefer when the sun’s up earlier and I feel like I get more done during the day. So, the shorter days feel less productive for me,” said Bismarck Resident Joe Smallacombe.

These differences have come faster and are heightened by the pandemic.

“Everything’s been so weird with COVID and being stuck inside and not being able to go places. I don’t think it’s usually a positive going into winter and being even further stuck at home,” said Bismarck Resident Libby Friedt.

Not everybody experiences the same symptoms, but there are similarities.

“Feeling sad or down for more than just a little bit of time, usually two weeks or longer, losing interest in things that you used to enjoy. Sometimes we can have concentration and memory difficulties. We can have sleep changes.

We can have appetite changes. Sometimes people tend to withdraw from others,” said Sanford Health Clinical Neuropsychologist Marie Schaaf Gallagher.

Gallagher says isolation is particularly tough for those who are depressed.

“We haven’t been able to socialize, which is really helpful for depression. We haven’t been able to be out and about as much,” Gallagher said.

Doctors say you can combat seasonal affective disorder by getting outside and finding creative, safe ways to socialize.

Gallagher recommends using zoom or Facetime to keep in touch with loved ones and sticking to a routine within your own space.

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