Each year on February 2nd, we forget about the fancy technology that exists to predict the forecast and rather turn our attention to a groundhog and his shadow. On this day, people wake before dawn to see if the now famous Punxsutawney Phil will see his shadow on the ground. Theory states if Phil sees his shadow on the ground then we can expect another six weeks of winter; however, if he does not see his shadow we can look forward to an early spring.
So you are probably wondering how accurate is this forecast prediction, because he is ‘only’ a ground right? Since Punxsutawney Phil was first tasked with this job over 130 years ago he has predicted 103 forecasts for more winter and only 18 forecasts for early spring. A study conducted by the National Climatic Data Center found that he is right 39% of the time (“Groundhog Day | National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI) formerly known as National Climatic Data Center (NCDC),” 2015).
With predictions tending to heavily favor six more weeks of winter, it is important to understand how changes in seasons can impact a person’s mood. During the winter months, some people begin to feel depressed and notice a decrease in their energy levels that does not exist during other times of the year. These individuals may be suffering from what was formerly known as Season Affective Disorder (SAD) and what is now known as Major Depressive Disorder with season pattern in the DSM-5. The symptoms of this disorder are similar to that of a depressive disorder and those experiencing ‘Winter Pattern SAD’ may experience cravings for carbohydrates, weight gain, hypersomnia, or social withdrawal (a feeling like you want to “hibernate”). Treatment for SAD often includes psychotherapy such as CBT combined with behavioral activation to both look at negative thoughts process, but to also keep the person active. (“NIMH » Seasonal Affective Disorder,” n.d.). Another common treatment for SAD is light therapy to help replace the decrease in natural sunlight that is experienced during the winter months.
So did you see Punxsutawney Phil’s prediction this morning? Well if you did not he has predicted 6 more weeks of winter.
Groundhog Day | National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI) formerly known as National Climatic Data Center (NCDC). (2015, February). Retrieved from https://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/customer-support/education-resources/groundhog-day
NIMH » Seasonal Affective Disorder. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/seasonal-affective-disorder/index.shtml
Fun Facts on Groundhog’s Day: http://www.ibtimes.com/groundhog-day-2018-facts-quotes-history-upcoming-annual-ritual-2648921
Anissa Pugh, MA LPA
WKPIC Doctoral Intern