Culture & Engagement, Workplace Well-Being

‘Tis the Season for Seasonal Affective Disorder

seasonal affective disorder
Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

Like literal clockwork, the end of Daylight Savings Time always seems to be the signal of more difficult times to come, with its darker skies and cooler air.

It was during this time in my teens I began to experience a predictable annual pattern of sluggishness, loss of interest, and feelings of social withdrawal which I would later identify as Seasonal Affective Disorder.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (also known as Seasonal Depression or SAD) is a type of depression that occurs in a cyclical or seasonal pattern, typically during the darker months of winter.

Symptoms of SAD may include:

  • Fatigue
  • Loss of interest in regular activities
  • Social withdrawal
  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Changes in appetite or weight gain

SAD affects approximately 10 million American adults annually while typical sufferers tend to be younger adult females who live further distances from the equator (like the northern US and Canada). Individuals with a family history of or a pre-existing mental illness are more likely to experience episodes of SAD.

Employees who are suffering from SAD may begin to display patterns of tardiness or absenteeism, cyclical declines in performance, and a decrease in engagement.

So what can you do to help employees with Seasonal Affective Disorder thrive in the workplace? Understand the many accommodations available including allowing a desktop therapy light, regular access to natural light, or a change in work hours. While many individuals can continue working while symptomatic, severe cases of SAD may require additional time off from work, which may be protected under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and/or the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Mental Health Allyship is an increasingly important part of creating an environment inclusiveness and understanding. When employees are able to bring their best selves to work, they’ll be empowered to put their best work forward.

If you or someone you know is experiencing a mental health crisis, please seek medical help immediately. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a free, 24-hour hotline, at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) which will connect to the crisis center nearest to you.