What to Do When Seasonal Affective Disorder Leads to Dropping OutNovember 11, 2019
Students who struggle with depression are more than twice as likely as their classmates to drop out of high school or college. The correlation between depression and academic performance is driven by a loss of interest in activities. It is natural for students’ motivation to shift throughout the year, especially when deadlines are quickly approaching; however, seasonal changes can have a significant impact on students’ energy and mood. If your young adult is struggling with Seasonal Affective Disorder, they may be more likely to discuss dropping out towards the end of the fall semester. It is natural to have concerns about what to do to help during the middle of the school year.
What is Seasonal Affective Disorder?
As temperatures drop and daylight hours shorten in the winter, many people’s moods and energy level tend to be lower as well. Seasonal Affective Disorder refers to recurrent depression in the winter where symptoms tend to disappear by spring or summer. Young adults must experience winter episodes of depression for at least two years in order to be diagnosed.
Symptoms include a decreased energy level, irritability, an inability to concentrate, and hopelessness. Students also tend to avoid social situations more than usual and have trouble sleeping.
How Common is SAD among College Students?
Symptoms of seasonal depression are more common than one might think. Among students in the Northeast, around 20% of students report symptoms of seasonal depression, while 13% have officially been diagnosed. Students often struggle to identify patterns of Seasonal Affective Disorder as their mood swings and stress levels tend to coincide with school assignments. For students, it may mean a loss of motivation, a drop in self-confidence and the inability to complete projects, which they are more likely to attribute to their academic potential than outlying factors.
When seasonal depression affects school performance, students are more likely to feel overwhelmed by their academic goals and believe that they are incapable of reaching them. Students are more likely to drop out before exams of their fall semester than the spring semester, with 17.5% of students withdrawing from classes before enrolling in the spring semester. They may start school and quickly realize that they are not prepared, party their first few weeks and then feel blindsided when responsibilities pile up, or feel trapped by depression as soon as the weather changes and school stress increases. Halfway through the fall semester, students find out if they will be placed on academic probation for the next semester, which can indicate whether they feel like they need time off. As many students drop out during the fall semester, it is not uncommon for new students to start mid-year.
Other Factors Contributing to Dropout Rates
- Balancing responsibilities with personal life
- Not being ready for independent living
- Lack of motivation
- Struggling with organization and study skills
- Problems managing stress
- Neglecting self-care
- Bad habits
- Negative beliefs associated with high expectations
- Not knowing how to ask for help
Ways to Renew Motivation During Winter Months
The problem with dropping out in the fall after a dip in motivation is that winter can be very isolating, especially for young adults struggling with Seasonal Affective Disorder. After dropping out, many teens feel a sense of guilt and worry about disappointing others. This can tear apart their self-esteem and discourage them from trying to get back on track. Dropping out and taking time off school when dealing with mental health issues can be a great opportunity for young adults to reflect on struggles they’ve faced and things they want to do differently.
Spending more time outside is one of the most common recommendations for young adults with Seasonal Affective Disorder. Adventure therapy programs help young adults break out of their comfort zones and try new activities that help them build confidence. Students have the opportunity to reflect on their personal and academic goals after dropping out of college and make plans to be successful in the future.
Trails Momentum stands out from other wilderness therapy programs, as they integrate indoor activities, academic classes, and sleeping in cabins with backpacking expeditions to keep students more engaged during the winter months.
Trails Momentum Can Help
Trails Momentum is a wilderness therapy program for teens and young adults ages 18-25 to transition to independence and improved self-awareness. The program uses adventure therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, and a strength-based approach. It is a small and nurturing community that focuses on goals of improved self-regulation and overall functioning for young adults. Trails Momentum gives students the skills they need to lead healthier, happier lives. We can help your family today!
Contact us at 877-296-8711.