Seasonal Affective Disorder Taking a Toll on High School Students


Photo Ryan Melaugh

A child with Seasonal Affective Disorder hides his face with his hands.

Written by Mia Cammarota and Annie Gilbert

Now that spring has finally come, the weather is warmer, the days are longer, and there seems to be a new energy everywhere;  a major shift in mentality is happening all across the country, specifically for those who deal with what is called Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D).

So, what exactly is S.A.D?  “S.A.D is when a person experiences depression due to a change in the amount of daylight in a day, and usually starts in mid to late October and can last until March,” explains Therapist Doctor Henry Stribling. Seasonal Affective Disorder also known as, Seasonal Depression, affects about three million Americans per year. This disorder most commonly affects people during the winter months when there’s a shortage of daylight causing a lack of Vitamin D, which especially affects those with S.A.D.

Based on research conducted by Dr. Norman Rosenthal, who formerly worked at Georgetown University, six percent of Americans have Seasonal Affective Disorder and fourteen percent of Americans have another form of seasonal mood changes. Due to the difference in climate the majority of these percentages come from northern states where as in more southern states people are less likely to have the disorder and more commonly have slight mood changes in the colder months. That’s not to say that if someone lived in a warmer climate they couldn’t  have Seasonal Affective Disorder, it is just much less commonly seen than in colder climates.

“In fact, someone may have winter blues while living in southern climates and convert to full blown S.A.D if he or she moves to a northern climate,” says Dr. Rosenthal.

As far as side effects go for S.A.D, they are usually exactly what most people would expect. For many of those dealing with Seasonal Affective Disorder waking up in the morning may become more difficult. Those affected may have less energy, may eat more, and might even notice difficulty keeping up with relationships and work (noticing one or more of these symptoms does not automatically mean someone has Seasonal Depression, but it could still be a good idea to talk to a doctor if any symptoms become concerning).

These symptoms can also take a toll on students’ abilities to maintain good grades and stay on top of assignments, which is why it is so important to be aware of this condition and show compassion for people around you who may be struggling. Fortunately there are some treatments out there for those trying to overcome this disorder.

“The best solution that I know of is to sit under a sun lamp. People can have them on a desk while they work or above their chair while they watch tv,” suggests Doctor Stribling.

There’s such a wide range of ways to help cure Seasonal Affective Disorder that are unknown to many, like the sun lamp, that is more specifically called Phototherapy, getting the proper amount of Vitamin D, and meetings with a therapist if symptoms start to get increasingly worse. Medication or natural remedies can be prescribed by medical professionals, too.

For those who have Seasonal Depression it’s a great idea to find an outlet or someone to talk to if it feels comfortable, because being able to share some first hand experience, advice, or even just  having someone there to listen can have a very positive impact. Even though Seasonal Affective Disorder comes and goes with the seasons, anyone fighting it shouldn’t use that as an excuse to not to get help, but a reason to prevent it from coming back.