As winter brings colder weather and less sunlight, seasonal affective disorder, more commonly known as seasonal depression, may begin to affect the Athens community.
The National Institute of Mental Health reports that millions of Americans could suffer from SAD even if they don’t know that they have it.
In order to be diagnosed with SAD, one must exhibit symptoms of major depressive disorder, have episodes for two consecutive years in a specific season, and episodes must be more frequent than at other times of the year. SAD is especially common in places that have shorter daylight hours in the winter.
Katarina Glassman, a second year animal and biological sciences major at the University of Georgia, said that she got diagnosed with seasonal depression in her senior year of high school in the midst of family issues, when she began sleeping through classes and missing activities with friends she previously enjoyed.
“Once people started telling me we don’t really see you that much, that’s kind of when I decided, ‘oh I need to go get some kind of help’,” said Glassman.
Glassman said her seasonal depression makes it harder for her to find motivation for school and hobbies in fall and winter months. She said that she knows when her seasonal depression is setting in when she finds she has no motivation to paint, read, or exercise, which are typically activities she enjoys.
“It’s just like a lack of concentration. I’m struggling in school, kind of any like self motivation, and I just lack the want to do anything,” Glassman said.
She also said that her seasonal depression is especially surprising and frustrating because fall is her favorite season.
Dr. Nile Sedgwick, a psychotherapist in the Athens area, said that a SAD diagnosis is a qualifier used to categorize major depressive disorder that has a seasonal pattern. While most common in the fall and winter, people can experience seasonal depression any time of year.
Sedgwick also said that seasonal depression can have a variety of causes beyond a lack of sunlight in colder seasons. Seasonal depression can also be linked to specific holidays, traumatic events, or being inside more than usual.
This year, daylight savings took place on Nov. 6.
“As the time changes and it gets colder and the light during each day decreases to the winter solstice, I think people lose the sense that there’s any time in the day for themselves,” Sedgwick said.
Regardless of the cause of one’s depressive feelings, Sedgwick encourages UGA students who may be struggling with poor mental health to reach out to the University Health Center’s Counseling And Psychiatric Services. Free, short-term counseling is available, and CAPS provides referrals to other community practices in the Athens area.
Other members of the community can refer directly to independent practices. Sedgwick notes that the Athens area has many mental health practices.
“I think mental health…there’s more demand for it from the people who live here,” Sedgwick said.