It’s 2020, and high time we stop minimizing mental health issues. So why do so many people joke about having seasonal affective disorder? Sometimes universal emotions like sadness are likened to the symptoms of mental illness, which really doesn’t help us understand, connect, or seek treatment when we’re suffering.
It’s important to clarify and understand this first: Sadness is a normal human emotion.
We experience sadness our entire lives and will continue to for our remaining time on earth. We tend to be sad about something—triggered by an event, a circumstance, a thought. This also means that the state of being sad changes; it comes and goes with time once we’ve processed the triggering event. But sadness on its own is different than a more serious mental health disorder. Yes, it is a huge bummer when the holiday season ends, but a prolonged state of depression that begins to occur as we march toward the shortest day of the year? That’s more serious than sadness alone.
Depression—and in the case of this essay, seasonal affective disorder—is not a normal emotional state. It’s a mental illness that changes all sorts of important functions like how we think, how we process emotions, how we perceive what is going on around us. The difference between depression and SAD is that the latter usually begins and ends around the same time of year.
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