The season is here! It’s the season of good tidings and cheer. But, for some, that sentiment is an ironic reminder that it’s that time of the year when we lose daylight, the temperature drops, and something just doesn’t feel right. So, while we’re all aware of the holiday season, not everyone knows about seasonal depression.
Melatonin’s to Blame
Why do we feel down this time of year, despite the holidays? Research leads us to blame an imbalance of melatonin. Melatonin helps us feel groggy, sleepy, and ready for slumber. The rotating hours of day and lack of sunlight “tricks” our bodies to overproduce melatonin. It’s mainly triggered by light, so we’re getting tired earlier and for an overall longer period of time throughout the season.
SAD Looks Like Depression
The clinical name for seasonal depression is SAD (seasonal affective disorder). The symptoms are quite similar to those of depression. But, SAD is cyclical, with its symptoms subsiding with the onset of warmer weather. Oversleeping, a change in mood and behavior, lack of concentration, and potential weight gain are signs of seasonal depression. SAD doesn’t discriminate. It affects seniors, all races, and, along with depression and addiction, targets teens and millennials.
The Good and Bad
The bad news is that there is no way to provide more natural sunlight or warmth to your immediate environment. The good news is that being aware allows for methodical and efficient defense from the winter blues.
Some things to consider:
Watch what you eat and limit your intake of carbs and sugary foods to help regulate weight.
Fit in activity for at least 30 minutes per day.
Channel ways to express yourself.
Get outside when you can! Create more reasons to get outside for work, exercise, and play.
Consider purchasing a product that specifically targets SAD, such as a lamp to put at your desk at work or room at home.
Emotionally, the season can remind some of us of past trauma, lost family members, etc. Furthermore, those in recovery don’t need additional triggers or temptation, so this time of year can be especially intense. But, anyone is susceptible to SAD because it’s chemically-based. A usually happy, well-adjusted person could be affected. Now you’re aware and better prepared for the upcoming season. Happy holidays!
Jenny Weatherall is the co-owner and CEO of Eminent SEO, a design and marketing agency founded in 2009. She has worked in the industry since 2005, when she fell in love with digital marketing… and her now husband and partner, Chris. Together they have 6 children and 3 granddaughters.
Jenny has a passion for learning and sharing what she learns. She has researched, written and published hundreds of articles on a wide variety of topics, including: SEO, design, marketing, ethics, business management, sustainability, inclusion, behavioral health, wellness and work-life balance.
Seventeen-year-old Hannah Baker took her own life in her bathroom, leaving her distraught parents to find her lifeless body and wonder why. Hannah defined the why by making an audio diary on 13 cassette tapes and asking that they be circulated among those she holds responsible for her suicide in the Netflix show (and preceding novel) “13 Reasons Why.”
Hannah is a beautiful, smart girl with loving parents and a bright future. And yet, like so many of our teens in the U.S., she kills herself. The decline into anxiety and depression — terms used interchangeably by today’s teens — is a grading slope of despair.
Suicide doesn’t happen because of just one thing, one emotion, one event. Depression is a subtly dangerous illness that gradually takes over.
Though Hannah Baker’s story is fictional, the depth of pain from the epidemic of teen depression is all too real for many families today.
In fact, today’s teens and younger millennials are struggling with anxiety and depression more than any previous generation on record. Studies show millennials suffer from anxiety at a much higher rate than preceding generations. Subsequently, the suicide rate among adolescents in the U.S. is climbing more than ever.
Millennials and Depression
Suicidal tendencies are a marker of depression and anxiety. Much has been documented about millennials being delicate and having many worries despite having protective helicopter parents.
Studies do not provide a definitive answer as to why there is this continuing rise in depression in adolescents and young adults; however, mental health professionals speculate several factors contribute to the issue:
Many experts say teens are using more drugs and alcohol, which cause mood changes, anxiety and depression.
An electronically based society, with almost everyone owning a smartphone.
Growing up among so many school shootings.
Worry for one’s family finances.
Some professionals say we are raising our kids with unrealistic expectations and that having a kid-centered culture has shielded them from learning how to deal with the normal challenges of life. Raising our children with the idea they can do anything, meanwhile providing everything, fosters an era of entitlement.
Is Entitlement to Blame?
Modern society teaches young people that their possibilities are endless. However, the blessing of limitlessness brings with it the curse of too many choices, paralyzing the individual who has anxious tendencies.
In some cases, this kind of upbringing facilitates an entitlement attitude. This is a mindset of deserving everything without putting forth the effort to achieve it. As children grow into adolescents and young adults, thoughts of not being good enough to attain all that we expect of them and facing a life of making it on their own are overwhelming.
In many ways, there is more stress now than in previous generations. Stress triggers depression, anxiety and mood disorders.
During the difficult time of hormonal and brain changes during adolescence, most teens experience some symptoms of depression and anxiety from time to time. If a teenager is predisposed to mental health issues due to genetics, his or her risk of depression, anxiety, drug and alcohol issues increases.
Millennials: Depression Stats
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention routinely conducts the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS) survey, which monitors unhealthy and risky behaviors among youth and young adults. Behaviors that indicate depression and/or suicidal ideation are included.
Here are some facts gathered by the YRBSS regarding anxiety and depression in adolescents and young adults:
Suicide is the second-leading cause of death in people aged 10 to 24 years old.
American students in grades 7 through 12 make an average of 5,240 suicide attempts per day.
More people die of suicide than homicide in the U.S.
Only 30 percent of depressed teens are getting treatment.
Suicide-related behavior among American teens has steadily increased from 2009 to 2017.
Another study conducted by Jean Twenge, Ph.D., professor of psychology at San Diego State University, shows that 5 times as many high school and college students deal with anxiety now than the same age group did during the Great Depression!
The Impact of Screen Time
Modern lifestyles – less family support, living with fewer people, less exercise, less outdoor sun exposure and more computer/phone time – play a huge role in changes from traditional values toward more mental health problems.
The impact of screen time on our youth contributes to anxiety in the following ways:
Social media encourages insecurities: Cyber bullying, slander, comparing oneself to others, and the feeling of needing to look perfect online all contribute to low self-esteem and insecurity.
When adolescents and young adults want to avoid the stress of real life, school or interactions with real people, they can easily escape into their smartphones.
It is a known fact that the use of electronic devices for more than 2 hours a day creates mild depression.
This is not an all-inclusive list, as much has been written about the effects of the use of electronic devices among young people.
Risks for Drug and Alcohol Abuse and Addiction
Because of the increased rates of depression and anxiety among today’s youth, our young people are more at risk of self-medicating and addiction than ever. More and more addiction treatment centers are offering programs focused on addressing anxiety in adolescents and young millennials to meet the needs of our current climate.
The pain of anxiety and depression in young adults drives many to self-medicate. It is difficult for someone suffering with depression to reach out for help. Millennials look to ease their pain any way they can, often turning to substances to make them feel better. At a young age, it is easy to find peers using drugs or getting alcohol underage.
For lack of better options or the embarrassment of coming forward to acknowledge their anxiety, adolescents that start using substances to relieve psychological pain can easily become addicted. Alcohol, illicit drugs and prescription drugs carry a high risk of abuse and addiction.
If someone with anxiety or depression develops an addiction, they will have what is called a dual diagnosis. These kind of cases requires specialized treatment for both issues.
Higher Risk Factors for Teen Depression
Some teens have higher-than-average risk factors for depression, addiction and suicide. In addition to a genetic predisposition as previously mentioned, some of these factors include:
Having a psychiatric illness without receiving adequate treatment — the highest risk for suicide
Being abused or neglected
Suffering from chronic illness
Family history of mental illness
Regularly consuming alcohol
Regularly using illicit or prescription drugs
Warning Signs and Symptoms
Do you worry that your teen or young adult child might be struggling with depression, anxiety or a related psychiatric disorder? Sometimes it can be difficult to distinguish between what is normal moody behavior and when something is truly awry.
There are some warning signs and symptoms to look for in your child or loved one:
Sadness or hopelessness
Drug or alcohol use
Low self-esteem or acting overly self-conscious
Eating disorder symptoms or not caring about appearance (lack of hygiene or changes in appearance)
Problems in school (lower grades, getting in trouble)
Scars, self-harm or cutting
Lack of interest in activities and alienating oneself from people
Interest in or talking about death
This is not a comprehensive list of warning signs. Anytime you have concerns about these symptoms or others, do not hesitate to ask questions. When it comes to mental health issues, drug and alcohol abuse or potential suicide, it is always better to be safe than sorry.
Depression and anxiety are serious conditions. Threats of suicide should always be taken seriously.
If you need personally need help for depression or suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or call 1-800-SUICIDE.
Experienced Chief Executive Addiction Recovery and Mental Health Professional
Business professional in the Addiction Recovery and Mental Health industry for the past 26 years. Caring, compassionate and strongly motivated to make a difference in the organizations I am affiliated with and welfare of the population we serve. Currently focused on advocating, educating and developing projects leveraging evidence based, real time technology to support individuals in recovery.