Mental Health Stigma Surrounding Seasonal Depression
Seasonal depression is a hot topic during this time of year, and seasonal depression and stigma rear their ugly head simultaneously. It wasn't until recently that I could put a name to all the unpleasant and lonely emotions that I felt as the days became shorter and the weather colder--I guess I can thank mainstream media for that. The fact of the matter is that many individuals experience varying degrees of seasonal depression. So why do people still attempt to debunk the phenomenon and call seasonal affective disorder fake? Stigma around seasonal depression, that's why.
What Is the Stigmatized Seasonal Depression?
The most important thing to note is that seasonal depression goes beyond the "winter blues" or moodiness. Painting the disorder as such invalidates the struggles of individuals suffering and amplifies judgment. Roughly three percent of the general population experience seasonal depression. Likewise, the disorder affects 10 to 20 percent of individuals with major depressive disorders and 25 percent of people with bipolar disorder.2
The symptoms of seasonal depression vary. With that said, some common signs of the disorder include but are not limited to:1
- Feeling listless, sad, or down most of the day, nearly every day
- Losing interest in activities you once enjoyed
- Having low energy and feeling sluggish
- Having problems with sleeping too much
- Experiencing carbohydrate cravings, overeating, and gaining weight
- Having difficulty concentrating
- Feeling hopeless, worthless or guilty
- Having thoughts of not wanting to live
Numbers and statistics aside, seasonal depression is real because of the humans who experience it and their emotions.
Taking a Deeper Look at Stigmatization of Seasonal Depression
Much like the parent disorder, major depression, SAD faces a significant obstacle in the path of progress: stigma. Although mental health is more widely discussed and understood today than in years past, stigma is still tied to the illness. Personally, the most irritating stereotype surrounding depression is that it's easy to get out of or is simply a "funk."
Depression is more than a funk, a brief period of lack of motivation, or moodiness.3 Depression is a disorder. It took me a while to accept that I could not--regardless of how I tried--will my way out of it. I needed resources, therapy, and medication to get to the healthy state I'm in today. It's frustrating that a lot of people don't get that.
Seasonal depression is not an excuse. It is not laziness. These falsehoods and biases stand in the way of many individuals seeking and obtaining adequate help to beat their battle with depression. I call on you with the utmost urgency to be an ally, not a barrier.
How I Cope During the Winter Months
With less sunlight, colder days, and the onset of seasonal depression, some days can be challenging to navigate. Knowing your tendencies and triggers is a great way to get ahead of the effects of SAD. For me, sunlight is crucial to my mood and motivation levels. In the winter, I make a point to wake up at sunrise and get my dose of fresh air and vitamin C early in the morning. I also like to embrace the coziness and holiday season that comes hand and hand with this time of year.
Although there are many resources and valuable tips and tricks to combat seasonal depression, I know better than most that sometimes, that's not enough. If this resonates with you in any way, I urge you to ask for help. I promise you are not alone in your struggle.
If you feel you may hurt yourself or someone else, call 9-1-1 immediately.
For more information on suicide, see our suicide information, resources, and support section. For additional mental health help, please see our mental health hotline numbers and referral information section.
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) - Symptoms and causes. (2021, December 14). Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/seasonal-affective-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20364651
Seasonal affective disorder: MedlinePlus Genetics. (2019, May 1). https://medlineplus.gov/genetics/condition/seasonal-affective-disorder/
Adame, S. (2017, September 20). Overcoming the stigma of seasonal affective disorder. The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2010/sep/14/seasonal-affective-disorder-stigma
Jack, J. (2022, November 24). Mental Health Stigma Surrounding Seasonal Depression, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2023, January 27 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/survivingmentalhealthstigma/2022/11/mental-health-stigma-surrounding-seasonal-depression
Author: Juliet Jack
I'm sure the numbers are higher.I live in upstate N.Y. in one of the cloudiest cities and every year I am affected.This year's weather has been really good so far and I still have it....