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Wellness > Mental Health

Let’s Talk About Seasonal Affective Disorder – the Disorder Nobody Talks About

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Clemson chapter.

The holidays are supposed to be a time of joy and excitement, but what if you can’t fully take advantage of all the good the holiday season is supposed to offer? If you have seasonal depression, unfortunately, that may be the case. It is a very real problem for many people and it’s important we start talking about it. Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, is the unfortunate truth for many Americans nationwide. According to Psychology Today, SAD is estimated to affect 10 million Americans, making it a very common, yet not well understood problem. Although I’d like to think that everyone knows about seasonal depression from that one episode of The Office where Michael pretends to have it, I understand that this is not the reality of the situation.

So, why do many people not know about this disorder? There are probably hundreds of answers to this question, but I think the main one is that people don’t notice it or dismiss their symptoms as just “feeling blue” or “under the weather.” The truth is that it’s easy to dismiss the symptoms when you see no cause for them. With almost any other psychological disorder, a physical or chemical abnormality can be pointed at as the root of the issue, but when this isn’t possible, it’s easy to ignore the problems at hand. Skeptics to mental health problems- the people that claim the person is just making up reasons to feel bad for themselves- can also be a reason some people don’t try to find help. If someone confides in a person like this, it could possibly just make the situation worse.

So, what are some of the symptoms of the disorder? There are plenty, but some of the most prominent ones include feelings of hopelessness or sadness, thoughts of suicide, oversleeping, and gaining weight. Although these are only some of the symptoms, there are plenty more, and I encourage everyone to do some research in regards to this topic to become well informed. It’s also important to recognize that although most people who experience seasonal affective disorder have it during the winter months, some experience it during the summer months. The symptoms for these are somewhat different however and include (but aren’t limited to) poor appetite, weight loss, and insomnia for the summer months.

Now that we know what the symptoms are, what are the causes behind SAD?

The truth is that even scientists and psychologists don’t know the cause of Seasonal Affective Disorder. However, what is known is that it can be treated. Depending on the case, a person can be recommended a mixture of light therapy, vitamin D supplements, antidepressant medication, and counseling. It is also recommended that people partake in self-care in order to not only treat this disorder but to possibly prevent it. Some recommended ways of self-care include going outside in the sunlight, planning physical activities, seeking help as soon as possible if symptoms arise, and planning pleasurable activities for the winter months. If you believe you or someone you know may be suffering from SAD, or any other psychological disorder, do not be afraid to reach out to a therapist or to the friend. It is always better to take action as soon as you can, as it can save yours or someone else’s life. Clemson offers Counseling and Psychological Services at Redfern Health Center, which is a great resource for anyone who needs any help and is free for all students.

I'm a junior Psychology major with a minor in the social science cluster. I love horseback riding, hanging out with friends, and watching copious amounts of Netflix (especially Criminal Minds and Parks and Rec, duh). I am also a part of Gamma Phi Beta, Psychology Club, and Girl Up.
Mayme Medlock is a junior at Clemson University, studying political science with an emphasis in international relations. In her free time, you'll find her chasing cute dogs, talking about studying abroad in the Balkans, watching copious amounts of Netflix, and putting people at ease when they question her name's pronunciation (May-m, not May-me).