The reality of living with seasonal affective disorder

The grey, cloudy weather that comes with the winter months can severely affect the mood of those who have seasonal affective disorder. Photo courtesy of

Maddie Rich, Reporter

*TW: Depression

Seasonal affective disorder, also known as seasonal depression or SAD, is a mental illness that affects about 10 million Americans. Even with this staggering statistic, the disorder continues to be dismissed by many as a fake illness.

While plenty of people doubt the actuality of SAD, plenty more feel the harsh reality that is seasonal affective disorder. Invalidating a mental illness and perpetuating the stigma behind it is incredibly harmful and often keeps people from getting the help they need. 

SAD can present itself during the spring and summer months, but it is far more common in late fall and winter. Here is what it’s like to experience seasonal affective disorder.

In late fall, you see the first grey skies of winter begin to roll in and you feel as though a switch has been flipped in your brain; more specifically, your mood. You start to present depression-like symptoms. 

You may become more anxious or stressed. Grades in subjects that you used to excel in may be dropping rapidly. If you are in the thick of seasonal depression, you may look at these grades drop and feel unmotivated to do anything about it. 

The feeling of being unmotivated can also affect things that you used to enjoy doing. Even something as simple as reading or dancing can feel as though it would take so much energy to get out of bed and go do it. 

Your sleep schedule when you are in the thick of SAD can be irregular. You may find yourself waking up in the middle of the night frequently. Or you sleep all day and all night. Everyone’s experience with SAD looks different. 

As with regular depression, your mood may be unpredictable. You may be irritable or on edge. Another symptom that is common is highs and lows. What this means is that there may be moments where you feel incredibly happy or euphoric one minute and then incredibly sad the next minute. During the happy periods, there is a feeling of being on top of the world. There’s a feeling of hope. Then, during sad periods you may experience excessive crying. Or, you may feel a blanket of unexplained sadness upon you. 

As with most mental illnesses, SAD doesn’t just affect you emotionally; it can also affect you physically. Loss or increase in appetite can lead to unhealthy weight gain or unhealthy weight loss. Headaches are common as well. It’s truly amazing the physical toll that a mental illness can have on a person’s body.

Maybe you read this and couldn’t relate to any of it. That’s great! Now, you can be aware of SAD and be there for friends and family who are struggling with it. 

On the other hand, you read this and it felt like someone was writing specifically about you. Maybe you thought you were alone in this. You’re not. There is hope and there is help. You do not have to do this by yourself. Talk to a trusted adult about how you’ve been feeling and they may be able to help you get treatment for the disorder, whether it is prescribed or over the counter.