For most people, the winter months are filled with joy. For people with seasonal affective disorder, it’s a different story.
“Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a recurrent major depressive disorder with a seasonal pattern usually beginning in fall and continuing into winter months,” an article from the National Center for Biotechnology said. “Symptoms center on sad mood and low energy.”
Sad mood and low energy is an understatement for Rachel Fisher, a senior struggling with the disorder.
“When I get an episode of depression, I feel like there’s a void inside of me that I can’t fill,” Fisher said. “Nothing excites me, and everything feels pointless. I want to crawl into bed and not move because trying doesn’t seem like an option.”
People with this disorder also often feel guilty. While others are singing carols and drinking eggnog, they are unable to feel the holiday joy.
“The hardest part of having SAD is watching it affect the people around you in a negative way and wanting to get better, but you just can’t no matter what you do,” Fisher said.
“(During the winter) I feel very alone. It feels like I’m very distant from people that I love,” an anonymous student added.
There should be no guilt. Depression is an issue of chemistry, not character. SAD should be treated as seriously as any other disorder, and despite the growing movement of mental health awareness, it is still often brushed off as simply the winter blues.
“People don’t think that SAD is real because they aren’t informed about it,” a second anonymous student said. “Other mental disorders like depression, though still stigmatized, are taken a little more seriously and have become more normalized to talk about in our society. A lot of people don’t know about SAD or know very little about SAD, so they draw conclusions with the little information that they do have.”
When not taken seriously, help isn’t given and symptoms increase. This is obviously not a good thing.
We need to start thinking of our peers, acknowledge their feelings and treat seasonal affective disorder like we would any other disorder: with acceptance.
This is Eleanor Marshall’s second year on ECHO staff, but she made several contributions while taking journalism class her sophomore year. She has been recognized for her work by JournalismSTL, MJEAand MIPA.