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Opinion

Seasonal Affective Disorder can be treated, but should be taken seriously

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November 30, 2016

Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD is a form of depression that regularly occurs during fall and through winter due to the changes in the season. According to the Mayo Clinic, symptoms include feeling depressed most of the day, nearly every day, problems with sleeping, changes in appetite or weight, leaden feeling in arms or legs, oversleeping, hypersensitivity to rejection and problems getting along with other people.

As I have always lived in Wisconsin, I am no stranger to the dark and gloomy days that signal the end of summer, and I have always loved the seasons of fall and winter. This is probably why I have always known of this type of depression but have not have always taken it as seriously as I do this year.

I don’t think I have known anyone who has or had SAD and told me about it. Like many mental health problems, SAD is just something most people don’t talk too much about. I would know, because I have been avoiding addressing this subject to myself for awhile now.

Since the end of October, I have had some suspicions that something has not been quite right for me. At first, I attributed being so tired and irritable with being a full-time student and a part-time employee. Everyone is tired in college, there is nothing unusual about that.

However, when I began to notice that I was so tired every day, no matter how much I slept at night or took naps after class, or when my arms began to feel so heavy for no reason, or that I seem to be more antisocial than usual and that there have been some big changes in my appetite and weight, I started to worry. I guess with so many symptoms staring me in the face I could not shake the whole idea of SAD being anything but a real problem for me.

Since I am being honest about this, I will admit that I have been suppressing identifying any degree of SAD in myself primarily because I am embarrassed. I am frankly a bit incredulous that my body could be so affected by the sheer fact that the sun doesn’t shine.

As December is now starting and all these symptoms do not seem to be going away, I feel strongly that I cannot ignore this any longer. And if my research is correct, there are many other people besides myself who are or have not yet realized that they are suffering from the side effects associated with SAD.

I guess what I am trying to get at by addressing my suspicions is to help to alleviate some of my guilt and doubt. I think it helps for me to realize that sometimes there are factors beyond my control that can cause such a dramatic change in my day-to-day life. Through the research I have done, I feel a sense of relief because how I am feeling is being validated. I feel better knowing for certain that what I am noticing in myself is something real and not just all in my head.

The Mayo Clinic does caution that having feelings commonly associated with SAD does not always indicate you have it. Though “if you feel down for days at a time and you can’t get motivated to do activities you normally enjoy, see your doctor.” Basically, feeling down sometimes is just a natural part of life. On the other hand, if you do have SAD, do not feel that you just have to wait it out. What you are feeling is real, and you do not have to be ashamed about it.

Lauren Simenson is a student at UW-River Falls.