It has been a long winter. Do folks seem edgy to you? Just how much Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is out there? The numbers are a little hard to parse out. SAD is a form of major depressive disorder (MDD); in other words, patients with SAD can be just as depressed as patients with MDD and are often more so. The only distinction between these depressive disorders is the timing of the episodes, which occur during the short, dark days of winter in patients with SAD. Research consistently turns up 6% as the percentage of the US population that is affected by SAD in it’s most marked form. Another 14% of the adult population suffers from a lesser form of seasonal mood changes. That’s 20% of US adults who experience a similar cluster of symptoms, most of which affect behaviors in a generally negative way.
But here’s the thing! This figure of 20% of the national population is concentrated in the northern regions. (Heck, California, Texas and Florida contain a quarter of the US population.) A little loose algebra and it’s reasonable to assume that in Portland the figure would climb to 33%, probably higher. Correspondingly, the number of folks in the throes of full-blown SAD in Portland can be guesstimated at 8%. Only a small fraction of these people are diagnosed.
What does this mean in your life? If one owns a bistro the size of Bethany’s Table (80-seat dining room it means that five to eight people in the room are experiencing full-blown SAD and another 16 folks are experiencing similar symptoms in varying degrees. This does not take into account the roughly 7% of the population that will experience MDD this year. We are focusing here on just the SAD folks because most of these are undiagnosed. Many don’t believe that they have a problem; they think YOU do. This can present some real hospitality challenges, especially if the Director of Customer Experience is also SAD. That would be me.
I don’t do sad. I’m a manly man. My symptom of choice is grumpy. I have learned over the years how to see the effects begin to bubble up in mid-October. For years I would greet these feelings with activity, effectively cocking the pendulum. The universe would almost invariably conspire to present me with a good reason to get very, very busy on a compelling and inspiring project, usually lasting until mid-January or February. Then, in February, the pendulum would reach its other apex, thus flinging me into the abyss, where I’d immediately begin looking for something to kill. Having learned this about myself I began resisting the urge to mania in October and, correspondingly, I resist tackling tough problems in February. Now I just prowl around throughout winter with a near-snarl on my lips, until the sun returns or I can flee. Much better! I can do this!