Tags: 2020 Elections | Coronavirus | Health Topics | Anxiety | Depression | pandemic | disorder

A Triple Threat of Depression Slams the Country

a distressed woman buries her head in her hands while seated on the couch
(Dominic Lipinski/AP)

By    |   Friday, 06 November 2020 06:41 PM

Experts say we are on a collision course of depression as anxiety over COVID-19, the onset of seasonal affective disorder, and worry over the election combine to form a perfect storm of mental unrest. Depression is characterized by persistent sadness, anxiety, and "empty" mood for an extended period of time, according to the National Institutes of Mental Health.

"It can cause severe symptoms that affect how you feel, think and handle daily activities, such as sleeping, eating or working," the organization states on its website.

According to The Hill, the uncertainty of the pandemic along with lost jobs, quarantines, and illness has created an era of heightened stress.

"This is a challenging time for the entire nation for many reasons: chief among them is uncertainty," said Ravi N. Shah, M.D., an expert in anxiety disorders and depression at Columbia University Irving Medical Center. "There is uncertainty about the election, coronavirus, the economy, school, and our futures."

A survey published in JAMA Network in September revealed from March to April, Americans were 3 times more likely to have symptoms of depression than before the pandemic. With colder weather and darker days ahead of us, we are also entering the time frame for seasonal affective disorders, or SAD. Experts predict an increase in depression as people are forced by inclement weather to spend less time outdoors and in nature, a critical recommendation to reduce stress for people dealing with the pandemic.

Psychologists advise making a mental health plan to help deal with depression and focus on the things you can control to feel better. For example, they suggest adjusting your schedule to maximize sunlight, according to The Hill.

A board-certified psychologist, Jeff Gardere, tells CNBC, being prepared can help stave off the blues. He recommended establishing a regular routine such as waking up and going to sleep at the same times. Gardere, who is also an associate professor at Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine in New York City, added using artificial light can help alleviate the symptoms of SAD. Light therapy lamps are commercially available and can help lift your mood and cognitive performance.

Even if the weather is nippy, the expert advises making time for exercise. While Gardere personally uses an indoor bike to work out, talking a brisk power-walk with a friend can release "happy hormones" such as dopamine and serotonin that help your mood and might alleviate the symptoms of depression.

Shah told The Hill, talking to a professional can also help if you feel you are suffering from depression.

"Get help if you need it," he said. "This is a time of self-compassion and self-care." He also suggested people take on a hobby or project. "We can't keep waiting for a silver bullet or magic solution. Do something that you can look back on and say, 'During 2020 the world was crazy, but I did this one positive thing.'"

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Experts say we are on a collision course of depression as anxiety over COVID-19, the onset of seasonal affective disorder, and worry over the election combine to form a perfect storm of mental unrest.
pandemic, disorder, mental health, covid-19
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2020-41-06
Friday, 06 November 2020 06:41 PM
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