Seasonal Depression: Winter’s Got Me Stressin’

By:  Georgia Wahl (284)

What is seasonal depression? Seasonal depression, officially known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), is a type of depression that occurs most often in the late fall through winter. Some may experience SAD in the summer, but not as frequently. SAD is more common in young people (ages 18-30), particularly women. According to the Cleveland Clinic, higher risk factors include having other mood-affecting disorders, a family history of SAD, or even as simple as living in a state farther from the equator with less sunlight.

Symptoms of SAD are similar to depression, including anxiety, depressive feelings, appetite and weight changes, sleep changes, social withdrawal, and much more. To be officially diagnosed with SAD, one has to experience multiple symptoms, and the seasonal episodes must have occurred for two consecutive years. The cause of SAD hasn’t been fully recognized, but research has shown a pattern in lower serotonin levels (a chemical that controls one’s mood) in those with SAD, which can be triggered by a lack of sunlight (National Institute of Mental Health).

Amongst stressed-out Central students in the often brutal winters of Philadelphia, SAD is not uncommon. I surveyed students of all grades, and here’s what they said:

Seventy-eight percent knew what seasonal depression was; sixty-six percent have had personal experience, and seventy-six percent know of someone who has experienced seasonal depression. 

(Male 284) says as a result of being worn out from school and the consistently bad weather, his mood is affected and he experienced the worst around the third quarter, stating “everything goes down.” He says his mood “slowly gets better” when heading into warmer months, or when the occasional warm day in a cold month. While (Female 284) agrees with (Male 284), she says, in accord with her feelings, “the change is fast” and the weather changes rapidly along with her mood. 

Although not everyone has had their own experience with SAD, many have watched someone else go through it. When talking about seeing someone else go through this, (Male 282) says, “they’re different, distant, standoffish, as though they aren’t there.” It can be difficult to see a friend, or a loved one, feeling so down, and can often have an effect on your own mood. Luckily there are plenty of resources available to help.

Apart from medications or therapy, there are many other ways you can help yourself or someone you know with SAD. For many people, sunlight is a solution. Whether it is natural or artificial, sunlight creates a chemical change in the brain which can increase your mood. Other

remedies include staying active, as keeping your body moving is very important, and has a greater effect than it sounds. In addition, keeping a schedule to have regularity in your day-to-day, along with the importance of staying social, can be beneficial. Having people to support you goes a long way. 

When asked what you can do to help someone struggling with SAD, (female 283) says, “you can’t take away their pain, but you can be there to listen to them and see if there are resources to help them.” Sometimes all someone needs is a little extra love and support.

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