SAD Students, Listen Up!

Lauren Carvalho, Staff Writer

As the weather grows colder and the days become shorter, many students may start to notice a shift in their thoughts and actions. There is a likely culprit for this condition: Seasonal Affective Disorder, which is a type of depression related to changes in seasons that typically starts in fall and lasts through winter, causing major mood shifts. Although researchers have yet to discover the specific cause for SAD, it is known that the “reduction in sunlight in winter can throw your biological clock out of whack and reduce levels of serotonin and melatonin.”  (Arnold Lieber, MD) Researchers suggest that one may lose interest in certain activities that they used to find interesting, experience a lack of energy or difficulty concentrating and sleeping, or suffer from loss or changes in appetite. Unique symptoms include: heaviness in extremities, oversleeping, relationship problems, and weight gain. As a bonus, teenage girls and those who have a family history of depression are at higher risk of getting SAD. 

However, do not succumb to the feeling of despair, for there is hope for those battling the SAD onset. Many mental health experts recommend psychotherapy, light therapy, and antidepressants for those with intense symptoms of SAD. Most professionals recommend light therapy, as the idea is to “replace the sunshine that you miss during the fall and winter months… sit in front of a light therapy box every morning to get daily exposure to bright, artificial light,” according to MedlinePlus

Besides consulting a physician, you can attempt to alleviate the symptoms of SAD with lifestyle changes targeted at uplifting your mood. Spending time outside,  exercising, and practicing relaxation techniques are good ways to avoid this depressive disorder. 

SAD is a difficult but manageable condition to combat. Via Creative Commons by Vishnu Parmar.

If you think that this may apply to you, take comfort in knowing that you’re far from alone.  About half a million people in the US – mostly young people- suffer from SAD. To combat the symptoms of SAD, it may be beneficial to contact your family doctor or to seek professional help from a licensed therapist. As great as friends are for support, a professional will likely be much more beneficial. Most cases of SAD are typically not severe enough to induce suicidal thoughts; However, please remember that the 100% confidential National Suicide Prevention Line is availible 24/7 at 1-800-273-8255, and students also have the option to talk to someone via an online chat room if such feelings or urges arise.