This is the WORST week for seasonal affective disorder – experts explain how to fight it

Seasonal affective disorder, which affects nearly 13 million adults, is believed to be peaking this week, leading to fatigue, depression and even thoughts of suicide.

A survey by mental health company Thriveworks found that those suffering from the problem are most likely to seek support in the first two weeks of November.

This is thought to be due to a combination of the shock of reduced sunlight and a drop in temperature, as well as the physical toll of dark days.

Last week, experts warned of an impending decline in the country’s mental health as the clocks ‘fell back’, making the days shorter.

It’s unclear what exactly causes seasonal affective disorder, but experts think it’s due to how darkness affects our circadian rhythm – the body’s internal clock.

A report from online therapy provider Thriveworks shows that seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is expected to peak this week

Studies have shown that exposure to little daylight can cause a drop in mood-boosting hormones such as serotonin and disrupt the body’s production of melatonin, a hormone that affects sleep.

For the new research, Thriveworks analyzed Google Trends data for the search term “seasonal depression” from the past five years and found that searches peak in the first half of November.

“According to our analysis, this year in 2023 we can expect the seasonal depression to peak in the second full week of November,” the report said.

“This is the time of year when people historically look for more information on the subject.”

This year, the search term is expected to reach peak traffic this week and is “likely to have the highest search interest” the company has seen in five years.

Arizona and Hawaii (shown in red) do not change their clocks leading up to the winter and summer months.  About 29 other states (shown in yellow) are considering legislation to also opt out of changing the clocks

Arizona and Hawaii (shown in red) do not change their clocks leading up to the winter and summer months. About 29 other states (shown in yellow) are considering legislation to also opt out of changing the clocks

Laura Harris, a certified clinical mental health counselor at Thriveworks, said knowing how the season affects an individual helps professionals make plans to prevent mood drops.

Searches start to increase from early October to mid-November, Thriveworks found.

This is the period when average temperatures in some cities, such as Idaho Falls, Idaho, drop by more than 10 degrees; Fargo, North Dakota; and Springfield, Massachusetts.

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a form of depression that occurs when seasons change. For most people, symptoms begin in the fall and continue into winter as the sky darkens earlier and temperatures drop.

However, SAD can also occur during the transition from spring to summer.

SAD usually coincides with Daylight Savings Time, which for the US always starts on the second Sunday in March and ends on the first Sunday in November.

According to the Mayo Clinic, symptoms include feeling sad almost every day, losing interest in activities you used to enjoy, low energy or sluggishness, sleeping too much, carbohydrate cravings, overeating, weight gain, difficulty concentrating, feeling hopeless and suicidal thoughts.

This time of year you are more likely to oversleep, experience a change in your appetite, gain weight or feel tired.

Those with a family history of SAD are more likely to develop it, as are those who live far from the equator, have mental disorders such as depression and bipolar disorder, or are deficient in vitamin D.

If left untreated, SAD can lead to social withdrawal, problems with school or work performance, substance abuse, and thoughts of suicide.

Kate Hanselman, a nurse at Thriveworks, suggested going to bed and waking up at the same time every day so your body can adjust to seasonal changes, such as a lack of sunlight.

Limiting alcohol consumption can also curb symptoms, as can making sure you go outside at least once a day.