Seasonal Affective Disorder: How can it Affect your mental health?

By Izabelle Monsma /Staff Writer

Photo Caption: Days like this gray December day may be something that can affect SAD. Photo by Izabelle Monsma

Seasonal Affective Disorder, also known as SAD, can include a more frequent depressive mood for people who deal with depression, low energy levels, low self-esteem, over or under sleeping, less interest in activities that normally bring enjoyment, changes in weight, craving certain foods such as carbohydrates and sweets, and more. Mr. Joshua Holden (health teacher and coach) talked about other symptoms: “withdrawing from others, lack of joy in things that they used to enjoy or most kids would enjoy, extreme fatigue,  mood swings, drop in school performance, etc…”

Most of the time it will start early in fall and get worse through winter getting its worst in December through February and getting better as it gets warm again.  Ms. Jennifer Haston (GOAL Classroom and Behavior Coach) said, “We do usually see a spike of people coming throughout the winter.” SAD is most common in women but is also seen in men. It is unknown why it’s more common in women. It normally starts in young adulthood and will go throughout the adult years. 

Some studies show that GPAs drop in most fall semesters. They show good grades at first, but as it gets colder they drop, then in the spring semester they come back up to normal. Holden said, “I still struggle sometimes.  Now, think about how many 14 or 15-year-old students we have who have not been diagnosed.  They receive no form of treatment.  They struggle alone without people understanding why they feel the way they do.  It is incredibly hard for these students.  They need people in their lives who understand what they are going through and how to help them.”

Some people say it has nothing to do with SAD but information from Paradigm Treatment Centers,, who help teens and young adults, says that depression in teens can cause difficulty in concentration, planning and organizing, hypersensitivity, and more and all of those things affect grades. The same article says that teens will often refuse tasks if seen as too difficult because they doubt their ability, so that means that it can cause people to think they are just not trying but they are capable of doing the task and will affect their self esteem more than it already is.

SAD can also really affect relationships. It’s important to make sure that you are thinking about things before you do them to protect your relationships with a person affected by SAD. It can be hard for you and the person to get along and understand each other but it’s important to show compassion. An article from says that there is a good chance a person dealing with SAD might cancel plans and it will take them longer to complete tasks than it normally would. ( It may seem like laziness or lack of interest but if you give them time and space while also showing you are here for them and you care they will eventually come around. It may seem confusing and know that it’s not your responsibility to make others happy but that doesn’t mean you can’t do things to show you are there for them. Always remember that your mental and physical health always come first.

If you think you might have SAD or any other mental illness it’s important to get it diagnosed as soon as you can. Going without treatment can make things worse so talk to your doctor about any worries you may have. After being diagnosed there are lots of treatment options. There’s light exposure, phototherapy (light therapy), talk therapy, medications and if none of those things work you can work with your doctor to find a better solution for you. 

There are things that you can do to ease the effects of SAD. It’s important to find the pattern as soon as possible and then you can prepare yourself in the fall. You can try a UV light “sun” exposure can help a lot. Haston has some of these lamps in the break room.

It’s really important to pay attention to how you’re feeling so you don’t get stuck in a cycle. Holden said, “I suffer from depression and it is really tough when winter comes.  The weather changes, it’s gloomy out all of the time, and it’s dark when I get to school and dark when I leave school.  I really have to pay attention to how I feel this time of year.”

Lots of people may deny the fact that they are feeling these ways. Haston says, “Denial is the biggest thing. (Students) will say they are okay but then be skipping because they just can’t handle the class.” She also talked about finding an outlet. If you can’t talk to family, get to the doctor, maybe a trusted adult or a teacher you think you can trust. Even though it’s much better to talk to adults, if you don’t have any adults, a friend that is okay with you talking to them about it could even help to listen.

So just overall whether it’s seasonal depression, anxiety, depression, or other mental illnesses, it’s important to get help as soon as you can. If you go untreated it can be harder to deal with and understand later in life. It’s also important to know the signs whether it’s for you or others, and just because someone says they are okay does not always mean they are. Mental illnesses are real and they are not just something you make up or that you can control. It’s also not a joking matter. Making jokes about these things is why some people don’t take it seriously and mental illnesses are very harmful, something to keep in mind when thinking about how to approach others during this season.