Seasonal depression grows during holidays

Alara Stewart, Editor

As the holiday season intensifies with Christmas music, light shows, family gatherings and last minute gift shopping, it’s easy to get swept away by the energetic commotion. Although it can be invigorating to some, others experience the holidays as lonely and may feel an overall numbness to their surroundings. This can be classified as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), or more commonly known as seasonal depression. With the rise of mental health awareness it’s important to acknowledge that during these spirited times a lot of people may be struggling with their own internal battles. 

“It’s cyclical, and people’s mood tends to dip in the winter months in response to both the weather and the isolation that is a response to the weather, since we are indoors more often,” Nathan Pipes, psychology teacher, said. “Summertime in St. Louis, everybodies outside of their house, but in the winter time everybodies inside for four months.”

A correlation can be found between teenage mental health and seasonal depression as teenagers are experiencing drastic changes in emotions, navigating through liminal levels of independence and beginning to identify who they are or want to be. According to a survey that received responses from 10% of the U. City student body, 81.6% of students responded “Yes,” when asked “Is it difficult navigating through changes as a teenager,” and 18.4% responded “Somewhat.”

“As a teenager you don’t know what independence looks like or feels like but here it is and you have to take that step in just a few months,” Pipes said. “It produces a lot of anxiety. We also know that anxiety can be a mask for depression, and it’s unconscious. It’s not intentional but it’s like the anxiety is the person trying to fight depression. There’s all kinds of case studies on people who have had anxiety symptoms for years and once they get past that then they’ve got to deal with depression.”

Having to adapt to these new concepts during a pivotal age in life is challenging by itself, however the addition of seasonal depression makes it more challenging for teens to have a positive holiday experience. In most cases, seasonal depression is just a trigger for the emotions that teenagers already feel, bringing them to the surface and intensifying them. From a survey that received responses from 10% of the U.City student population, students describe their experiences as withdrawal from any interaction due to the loneliness, pressure from family members to put on a fake smile, stress and a lack of motivation.

In addition to the increase of depressive feelings, people are often bombarded with financial stress and family dynamics because of the expectation to buy gifts. There’s an underlying societal norm that for any holiday a person may celebrate throughout the season, it’s all about gift giving, despite its true meaning of spending time with family and friends. This pressure to spend money increases stress levels, especially those in the working and lower economic classes, where there may not be enough money to spend leading to longer work days and potential feelings of disappointment. Even so, the monetary stress may not be an issue for some, instead the stress of being surrounded by family when there could be inherent issues or tensions. Regardless of whatever negativity a person may be facing, it’s crucial to take all of these factors into consideration in order to understand and help loved ones out during this deceptive time.