The COVID-19 pandemic has put everyone on edge. We are living in a time of great uncertainty and almost a year later, there’s still no guarantee of when this pandemic will end. If you are feeling more depressed, anxious, or stressed than normal, know that you’re not alone.
Research shows that mental health diagnoses are on the rise, as well as increasing rates of addiction. Adults, adolescents, and children have been hit hard by the pandemic, which has completely uprooted our way of life. As we approach winter, many people will also face seasonal depression on top of their anxiety surrounded by COVID-19.
Depression Rates are on the Rise due to COVID-19
Depression is a serious mental health disorder that affects people of all ages. At any given time, it’s estimated that more than 16.1 million American adults experience a major depressive disorder, which is about 6.7% of the population. During COVID-19, those numbers are increasing exponentially.
In a survey of 5,412 Americans from June 2020, 40% of participants said they were struggling with mental health or substance abuse issues. Specifically, 31% of participants reported symptoms of depression and anxiety, and 26% were dealing with symptoms of a trauma or stress-related disorder. Roughly 13% of people said they started using substances or were experiencing drug or alcohol dependence.
To understand the increase in rates, the researchers behind the study compared the results from the June 2020 survey to a similar study from the same period in 2019. Anxiety rates in the June 2020 study were three times higher than the 2019 study. The prevalence of depression was roughly four times higher in the June 2020 study than in the 2019 study.
Deaths of despair are also increasing due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In June 2020, nearly 11% of participants in the study said they had seriously considered suicide within the last 30 days. For comparison, only 4.3% of participants in the 2019 study said they had suicidal thoughts throughout the previous year.
There are many reasons why people are experiencing extreme mental health distress during this time. People have been forced into isolation and are unable to see their loved ones, friends and co-workers. Millions of Americans have lost their job and many people are still out of work.
It’s a high-stress time for everyone. Tensions are soaring. If you’re struggling with depression or anxiety, taking care of your mental health is essential in maintaining stability. Being proactive with mental health care can also help prevent seasonal depression, which many people experience during the winter months.
How to Deal with Seasonal Depression This Winter
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD), commonly referred to as seasonal depression, is a form of depression that some people get during certain months. Data estimates that between 10-20% of the population gets SAD, usually during the winter and spring seasons. In most cases, symptoms disappear during the summer and fall.
People who suffer from major depressive disorder year round should be aware of SAD and understand the symptoms. It’s possible for people’s depression to get worse during the winter months, especially in places that experience freezing temperatures and lack of daylight. As we continue to wrestle with the COVID-19 pandemic, the winter months could be especially challenging for many people.
Like major depressive disorder, SAD is a manageable condition. You don’t need to spend the winter in the southern hemisphere in order to escape the symptoms. Here are some effective ways to deal with SAD during the COVID-19 pandemic:
1. Visit a therapist
Seeing a therapist during the pandemic is beneficial for a lot of people. If you struggle with depression or SAD, getting mental health treatment is even more important. Meeting with a therapist allows you to talk through your fears in a judgement-free zone. They can give you advice from an unbiased standpoint and recommend coping strategies that can help alleviate your symptoms.
2. Consider medication
For people who suffer from severe depression, medication is an option. Find a psychiatrist in your area who can evaluate your condition and explain the pros and cons of a prescription. Many people have success with antidepressants because it allows them to function like their normal selves. If you’re struggling to get out of bed in the morning, or can’t effectively care for yourself or your family, medication might be a good solution.
3. Find a support group
Support groups can be extremely beneficial for people who have depression or seasonal depression. Surrounding yourself with people in a similar situation allows you to make friends, build connections, and establish a solid support system. During the pandemic, many support groups are meeting virtually, which makes it easier to join from the comfort of your own home and try a few different groups before committing to a particular one.
4. Adopt new hobbies
One of the hardest parts about the pandemic is the constant isolation. You’re not able to freely spend time with friends and family and your favorite activities are no longer readily available. To beat boredom, try finding a new hobby that you’ve always wanted to try. Painting, drawing, cooking, gardening, and home decorating are therapeutic for many people. Keeping yourself busy helps lift your spirits and puts negative thoughts at bay.
5. Try light therapy
One of the most common treatments for SAD is light therapy. SAD lights emit artificial light that mimic the effects of sunlight. Light therapy takes time and consistency to produce results, but its effectiveness has been scientifically proven. Doctors recommend starting light therapy in late fall, before the official start of winter. SAD lights are typically inexpensive and can fit on any table or desk.
If you’re suffering from depression that has not been resolved with conventional treatments, consider Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) therapy. TMS is an FDA-approved, non-invasive procedure that takes under 20 minutes. After six weeks of treatment, many people report fewer depression symptoms, better sleep, and an improved mood.
Contact our team at (310) 878-4346 to see if you’re a good candidate for TMS therapy at Pulse.