Seasonal Affective Disorder

Sahana, Writer

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As the days get longer and the nights get shorter, an epidemic of exhaustion sweeps through the halls of Valley. It is known as seasonal affective disorder.
The symptoms usually attributed to SAD include perpetual exhaustion, decreased motivation, carb cravings and a cloud of disinterest. SAD has a wide spectrum of effects on some people, while others are simply unaware.
Senior Emma Mininberg is one of the many students at Valley who endures this disorder. Her experiences tell a story of falling into a vicious cycle of listlessness and eventually climbing back to her known self.
“To me, it cuts off my motivation, and I never feel like doing anything,” Mininberg said.
This is common in people with SAD and contributes to a theory that seasonal depression is a result of our body’s natural coping method, slowing down.
“When it gets dark, it feels like I should be sleeping,” Mininberg said. “So I just wanna sleep all day.”
This is what caused her dad to take action when he started noticing that her sudden sluggishness was dictating her personality. He suggested she join a gym, and that’s exactly what she did this fall, anticipating her imminent battle with SAD.
“He is a very big believer in exercising every day because it’ll make you feel so much better,” Mininberg said.
Mininberg has noticed a positive change in her mood and says getting school work done has become progressively easier. Exercising to combat seasonal depression is a popular treatment called cognitive therapy, recognized by social psychologists.
“Cognitive therapy is when you acknowledge [seasonal depression symptoms] but don’t train them,” Valley psychology teacher Shelly Burkett said.
According to the Mayo Clinic, something as simple as going for a walk in the morning or joining a sports team can stimulate the release of endorphins or “feel-good chemicals,” resulting in a wave of euphoria and relaxation.
This natural remedy was supported by a 2008 study done by Southern Methodist University. Sixty volunteers who suffered from anxiety either underwent a two-week exercise trial or were placed in a control group. Subjects that went through the exercise program experienced a larger decline in anxiety than the control subjects. While many choose this route of relief, some simply require the services of a specialist.
When school psychologist Pamela Lindo has a student come to her with symptoms aligned with SAD, she approaches it like a general depression disorder and finds ways to help them cope. Since the school psychology department isn’t equipped to give long-term aid, she suggests an appropriate source of help if the student isn’t connected to one already.
“We have resources out here in the western part of Loudoun to give to the parents to help them find a therapist,” she said.
In school, Lindo tries to help students overcome by utilizing programs such as the Sources of Strength program. It teaches students different ways to find resilience in their own abilities and qualities. But Lindo also knows that sometimes students just need a break from school in order to feel back on track. She specifically referenced coloring as a popular relaxation method.
Mininberg knows the impact of coping skills, such as exercising, and reflects on the effects of joining a gym.
“My school work has gotten progressively better because I have more energy and I am happier,” Mininberg said.
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