Arko Datto: SAD takes a look at people in Denmark suffering from seasonal affective disorder (PHOTOS).

Learning How to Cope With Seasonal Affective Disorder

Learning How to Cope With Seasonal Affective Disorder

Behold
The Photo Blog
Jan. 14 2015 10:13 AM

Learning How to Cope With Seasonal Affective Disorder

omas Steen. My winter depressions started when I was 17. At first, I did notknow what it was, but as the years passed by, I became nervous whenNovember approached. In my late 20s, I found out that there wassomething called winter depression, and that there was nothing youcould do about it. Today I am 40 and use lighttherapy for at least half an hour every day. I also take vitamin D duringwinter and the seasonal depression is almost gone. But I still have a lackof energy and less self-esteem between December and
“My winter depressions started when I was 17. At first, I did not know what it was, but as the years passed by, I became nervous when November approached. Today I am 40 and use light therapy for at least half an hour every day.” —Thomas Steen

Arko Datto

As celebrations surrounding the new year end, the reality for people living in colder climates begins to settle in, and it is one filled with freezing temperatures and days that are long and dark.

For a number of people, winter also marks the beginning of a recurring bout of depression known as seasonal affective disorder, classified in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders as a specifier for major depressive disorder.

Arko Datto moved to Denmark in 2013 to study at the Danish School of Journalism. He arrived in January during one of the coldest winters Denmark had faced in recent history. “It was minus 10 degrees for a long time,” Datto recalled. “It kind of hit me in a very big way. I retreated myself into a shell and had low energy levels.”

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Datto said that although he doesn’t believe he had a clinical case of SAD, for a long while his lack of energy and motivation contributed to his inability to take pictures. Part of the reason he was able to overcome his feelings of depression was the knowledge that he would be returning to India within the year. When he was finally ready to pick up his camera again, he felt he had a better understanding of what people who suffer from SAD were dealing with, and began working on a series about the disorder.

Christoffer Holmsteen. It is not so much the cold, rather the lack of sun on cloudy andrainy days that is the problem. A freezing day with snow on the ground andthe sun shining bright from the blue sky makes me a happy man. However,Danish winters push me to head for the Equator. When I have not beenable to do just that, artificial sunlight lamps have helped me a great deal.
“It is not so much the cold, rather the lack of sun on cloudy and rainy days that is the problem. A freezing day with snow on the ground and the sun shining bright from the blue sky makes me a happy man. However, Danish winters push me to head for the equator.” —Christoffer Holmsteen

Arko Datto

Pauline Drasbæek. After having a child I no longer have time to have winter depression. My daily life has been far more compressed.
“After having a child I no longer have time to have winter depression. My daily life has been far more compressed.” —Pauline Drasbæek

Arko Datto

Tejs Møller. I’m affected a lot by the changing seasons. My mood depended eightypercent on the weather. Some years back when I was living steadily inDenmark, the winters would be endlessly long and almost unbearable. Formany winters I have been leaving Denmark to get new energy.
“Some years back when I was living steadily in Denmark, the winters would be endlessly long and almost unbearable. For many winters I have been leaving Denmark to get new energy.” —Tejs Møller

Arko Datto

Finding people to photograph, however, was complicated. Datto said that although he found the Danish people to be friendly, he also found them somewhat reserved and difficult to engage with emotionally. He made a Facebook page about the project and then began approaching people on the street. A Danish friend helped him to make a sign about his project and he took it to train and bus stations in Copenhagen and Aarhus hoping to find more people to participate. Eventually, he was able to connect with willing participants.  

“I interacted with these people for a long time,” Datto said. “I talked to them about their problem, they sent a write-up about how they were affected by it and then we discussed how we could make a portrait based on how they were feeling when affected, and eventually I came up with the portrait that best encapsulated what their situation was.”

Lani Holmberg. In recent years I have been able to see the patterns of winter blahs and am a little more ableto counteract them rather than wallow in them. Exercise is quite important for me and Ithink the bike riding here helps a lot. The last couple of weeks I’ve made sure I’ve gone ontwo big walks when the sun is out. I’ve also been sun-baking in my room to try and getsome Vitamin D. I also regularly go to the sauna. I tend to drink less coffee during winterbecause I know I’m more prone to anxiety and have trouble sleeping: caffeine doesn’t help.
“Exercise is quite important for me and I think the bike riding here helps a lot. I’ve also been sun baking in my room to try and get some vitamin D. I also regularly go to the sauna.” —Lani Holmberg

Arko Datto

Peter Allan Bekke. I miss the Sun, light and warmth. Depression plays a big role duringthese winter months. When I have to get up, go about doing my dailyactivities, somebody inside me asks ‘Why bother?’
“I miss the sun, light, and warmth. Depression plays a big role during these winter months. When I have to get up, go about doing my daily activities, somebody inside me asks ‘Why bother?’ ” —Peter Allan Bekke

Arko Datto

Apart from the portraits included in the project he titles S.A.D., Datto interviewed his subjects and researched the symptoms and treatments of SAD, including information about a smaller group of people who suffer from the disorder during the summer months.

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For now, Datto’s work focuses on Denmark, but he said he hopes to eventually continue to meet people in other Scandinavian countries as well as Canada. He likes to work on multiple projects at the same time in order to let new ideas simmer.

“It’s important to recoil a bit from what you’ve done and then go back to it,” he said.

Datto found that, like with other mental illnesses, many people seemed to simply accept that there was little to do about SAD, that it was simply another part of life with which to cope. As conversations continue and treatments become better known, suffering through the season is hopefully ending.

“It’s a cyclical struggle for a lot of people,” he said. “It’s funny because the amount of people affected is huge, but it’s sort of accepted, people know it’s there in a sense but it’s only very recently started moving into a place where you’re having active medical discussions about it.”

Trine Johanne Cederlöf. In summer, when there is natural light from 4 am to 10 pm, I never feel properly relaxed. The light also activates my guilt of not being outside and ‘doing stuff ’. This is all year round, not just summer. Even in the winter, if there’s a sunny clearsky and I don’t have time or feel like engaging in an outdoor activity, I feelguilty for not being outside. When others are depressed by the darkness of winter, I feel calm and relaxed: like I have all the time in the world and no rush.
“In summer—when there is natural light from 4 a.m. to 10 p.m.—I never feel properly relaxed. … I feel guilty for not being outside. When others are depressed by the darkness of winter, I feel calm and relaxed—like I have all the time in the world and no rush.” —Trine Johanne Cederlöf

Arko Datto

Little tasks that were manageable before seem like big mountains and itseems easier to just give up. I have kids now, and they read and mimic theirsurroundings. Winter Depression is not something I want to pass on to them.I promise not to be depressed during winter!- Sara Lynge Bjarnholt Olsen.
“I have kids now, and they read and mimic their surroundings. Winter depression is not something I want to pass on to them. I promise not to be depressed during winter!” —Sara Lynge Bjarnholt Olsen

Arko Datto

Nicole Ligaard Jensen. One of the big issues while suffering from depression is staying at home andhaving no contact to the world outside, nor people in general. It can get verylonely. This is where my cats come in. They give life to my apartment, they needattention and love and caring, which gives me a reason to get out of bed everyday, even when it gets real bad.
“One of the big issues while suffering from depression is staying at home and having no contact to the world outside. It can get very lonely. This is where my cats come in. They give life to my apartment.” —Nicole Ligaard Jensen

Arko Datto

David Rosenberg is the editor of Slate’s Behold blog. He has worked as a photo editor for 15 years and is a tennis junkie. Follow him on Twitter.