Curing S.A.D.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is characterized by major depressive episodes in the fall/winter, but few if any symptoms in the spring/summer. SAD hits teens lives hard and goes beyond sadness, even though the initials suggest otherwise. Most commonly referred to as seasonal depression, it is a type of depression or bipolar disorder that occurs and ends around the same time every year. It tends to come and go with the colder seasons, so spring and summer are less common times for the disorder to happen.

Symptoms can include anxiety, extreme mood changes, increased or lack of appetite, insomnia, oversleeping, crankiness and the inability to concentrate. During the school year, teenagers mainly have issues with abnormal sleep patterns. A strenuous workload from school may affect a student’s mood as well

School psychologist Lisa Donn helps students with SAD and researches its causes.

“Melatonin [is] a hormone that influences our sleep patterns and mood,” Donn said. “Reduced exposure to sunlight through shorter days in winter knocks our melatonin balance out of order. I think that if teens got out into the world more often and were better able to speak up about things, we’d all be in a better place.”

Besides going outside more, there are various types of medication-free treatments for SAD. Simply sitting near windows or exercising outside are good for personal health. Other notable treatments include: learning relaxation techniques, eating a well-balanced diet and talking to a trusted friend or adult to raise social skills. A therapist or  medication may become necessary for some to make the dark hours a little brighter.

While the disorder is relatively unknown, it’s likely people know someone who experiences these issues. Left undiagnosed, SAD affects those in every age group.

The student body has several options to help make the best of the chilly forecast. The Spot sells coffee and hot cocoa for a reasonable price, and participating in school activities can help. Currently, students are participating in basketball, bowling, swim and dive, wrestling, the school musical and recycling. Getting out to support those activities can also help raise melatonin levels.  It’s been scientifically proven that active kids and teens are often happier.

When stress becomes overwhelming, it is important to take steps to relax. Exercise is just one way for help increase mood. The more that’s known about conditions like SAD and its treatments, the more control people have over their emotions.

No matter the season of the year, no one is ever alone.

“My door’s always open, Room 259 on the second floor. Feel free to set up an appointment with me at any time, or just drop by whenever you need,” Donn said.

Rain or shine, trusted adult are throughout the school. A change in weather is merely a change of the times; another opportunity to live your best life. Keep pressing on.