Health expert says COVID-19 pandemic may worsen seasonal affective disorder in the winter months

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PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — Winter is coming and for people who feel down when the seasons change, health experts say you may have seasonal affective disorder. It’s a type of depression that usually starts in late fall and winter.

“I think there’s gonna be a lot of struggles with mental health issues in general and COVID-19. I think that seasonal affective disorder is something that’s always going to be there in the winter months from those that do suffer from that condition,” said Ahlyssa Pinter, manager of behavioral health ambulatory services at OSF St. Francis.

Pinter says symptoms are similar to depression. She says people often are disengaged, may have weight changes, sleep pattern changes, changes in appetite, irritability, and even suicidal thoughts.

The COVID-19 pandemic and upcoming holiday season could make the seasonal affective disorder worse this year, she said.

“I think COVID-19 is bringing its own struggles and challenges into the winter months as seasonal affective is going to be there because even without COVID, seasonal affective disorder would be there,” said Pinter.

Pinter says some treatment options are medications, therapies, and finding activities and ways to stay engaged.

“Adding COVID-19 and the additional stressors that COVID-19 does bring to the table for those people really will cause a higher impact of feelings and experiences that they are going through,” said Pinter.

She says while people are isolating and at home more, they can spend time with family and start new hobbies.

Pinter also says people can always reach out to the National Suicide Prevention Hotline if they need someone to talk to.

The National Suicide Prevention Hotline is 1-800-273-8255.

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