The holidays are widely recognized as a joyous time of the year. However, for some, it marks the beginning of a seemingly never-ending road. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) tends to appear in the late fall and continues throughout the winter, synonymous with the American holiday season. Struggling with mental health makes it difficult to enjoy the holidays and talking to relatives becomes draining. Christmas songs are reduced to just noise, and the weather serves as another reason to stay in bed all day.

SAD is a type of depression that is not mentioned as often as major depression but cannot be ignored.

Major depression and SAD are similar. SAD is essentially a type of depression that occurs seasonally. It shares most of the same symptoms as major depression, including low energy, sleeping excessively, withdrawal, and overeating. Though SAD occurs more frequently in the fall and winter months, it can appear during summer as well. The symptoms are slightly different, characterized by poor appetite, insomnia, and anxiety, just to name a few. SAD is not limited to these symptoms exclusively and can include other common characteristics of major depression.

Depression, in terms of the range of mental illnesses, is one of the most common.

Due to this, it is seen as less severe than others, less scary. And while there are valid reasons for these types of perspectives, depression is seriously detrimental to one's mental health. Speaking personally, it feels like an emptiness has overtaken you. Emotions are replaced by an overwhelming feeling of hopelessness. Appetite becomes nonexistent and it is easy to go a day or two without eating much. Any sort of social interaction becomes a monumental task and the guilt for feeling this way is immense. Couple these symptoms with the approaching holiday season and it feels impossible to get through.

During the coming months, keep in mind that people are battling struggles on a daily basis. Educate yourself and learn the warning signs of depression, for your sake, and for others. Just because a friend canceled on you doesn't mean they're a flake. They could be isolating themselves. If someone doesn't seem interested in the conversation, it may just be because they've entered a depressive episode that makes socializing particularly difficult. Be mindful and offer help and resources to those around you.

Recognizing mental illness in your life or someone else's may not be easy.

It can be uncomfortable and frustrating, lonely and terrifying. There is no simple fix and it takes time to recover. Being understanding and having compassion, whether it be for yourself or others, is crucial when acknowledging mental illness. Depression can be debilitating, it can be extensive, but it helps to have a little bit of light. Find yours.

National Hopeline Network: 1-800-SUICIDE (784-2433)

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)

National Youth Crisis Hotline: 1-800-448-4663