This winter the pandemic is expected to intensify the depression experienced by many people with the syndrome known as seasonal affective disorder, or SAD.
We hadn’t yet switched back to standard time, with its shortened hours of afternoon daylight, when I began to notice a lack of enthusiasm for activities that I usually enjoy during the darker, colder days of fall and winter. Indoor projects like knitting and crocheting and preparing enticing new recipes — even books and televised shows and movies friends recommended — failed to interest me.
It didn’t take long to link this ennui to the limitations and isolation associated with the Covid-19 pandemic. The arrival of fall in New York heralded an end to summer’s socially distant get-togethers on stoops and decks and outdoor meals with friends and family. Gone too was a satisfying structure of daily exercise, work and meals that provided a feeling of control over my life.
It’s challenging to maintain joie de vivre when there are limited opportunities to socialize with people who can lift one’s spirits or to attend cultural or sports events that break up the monotony of pandemic days and nights.
But while the pandemic, with its myriad economic, vocational, educational and social disruptions, is challenge enough for people who are not normally prone to the blues, the days of truncated daylight this November through March could be far gloomier than usual for millions of Americans who suffer annually from seasonal depression.
This winter the pandemic is expected to intensify the depression experienced by many people with the syndrome known as seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, which predictably kicks in each fall when the hours of daylight shorten in the Northern hemisphere and gradually remits in spring.
An estimated 5 percent of the population — one person in 20 — has the full-blown SAD syndrome, said Dr. Norman E. Rosenthal, the psychiatrist who first identified it in the 1980s and then devised an effective treatment. In an interview, he estimated that three times as many people have a milder version of SAD, commonly called “winter blues,” that saps their energy and enthusiasm for life.