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Time changes like 'fall back' lead to mental health problems

More people experience symptoms of depression after daylight saving time ends

ST. LOUIS — Daylight saving time wrapped up Sunday which means there is more daylight in the morning but less at night. Less sunshine in the evening could prove challenging for people's mental health.

"There are studies that say both spring ahead and fall back cause more problems to mental health, often spring ahead more because you lose the hour," explains Dr. Jessi Gold with Washington University's School of Medicine - Psychiatry.

Fall back is not off the hook either. Dr. Gold says the end to daylight saving time often sparks mental health problems like depression.

"You're sleeping when it's usually bright out and it's messing with sleep, and sleep has a lot to do with mood," Dr. Gold tells 5 On Your Side.

According to Dr. Gold, activity also factors into mood changes when the clocks roll back. She says people are spending most of the daylight hours inside and at work which can negatively affect mood.

"It's similar to what you might see with depression; low mood, feeling depressed mood, anhedonia which mean not interested in things," said Dr. Gold.

Additional symptoms of seasonal affective disorder include eating more, sleeping more, and having trouble concentrating. 

"At the higher end of things, suicidal thoughts," Dr. Gold says. "It's always in that sort of seasonal pattern where once the sun isn't out as much and once it's a little bit colder you'll feel more depressed."

If symptoms are preventing someone from doing their routine activities, Dr. Gold says it's time to seek help. She suggests seeing a psychiatrist who can suggest coping skills and prescribe medication.

According to Dr. Gold, some people with seasonal affective disorder only need to be on medication during the fall and winter months. She also suggested light boxes which can act as extra sunlight during these dark months.


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