Why so SAD? How Seasonal Affective Disorder affects students
Prya Oliveira, Staff Writer
Along with the drop in temperature, moods can shift drastically during the change of seasons. The transition from summer to fall has been proven to directly affect human emotion and behavior more than that of spring to summer. Seasonal Affective Disorder, also ironically referred to as SAD, is common among young adults and is the type of depression that relates to the change of seasons. A lot of people have symptoms of SAD and don’t even realize it. The best thing to do is to recognize these symptoms and treat them before they get worse.
Studies done by the Mayo Clinic have shown that some symptoms include those similar to depression; low energy, a change in appetite, sleeping issues, losing interest in hobbies that used to make you happy, thoughts of suicide, and having a hard time concentrating. It’s important to see a doctor if you think that you have these symptoms because SAD not only affects your personal life, but can hinder your professional life as well. The seasonal change can cause this disorder because of the lack of sunlight. The shift in your biological clock, because of the reduced sunlight, interrupts your sleep pattern and can result in depression. Your melatonin and serotonin levels drop which are the chemicals directly related to your mood. People don’t really notice how much the sunlight can affect them until you go without it for a long period of time.
Phototherapy is an effective way at keeping the symptoms of SAD to a minimum. The National Institute of Mental Health states, “light therapy is usually helpful in treating this seasonal disorder, and for this purpose, you can use one of the many dedicated light boxes that are now available on the market.” It’s crazy to think that a small tool like a light box can boost your mood and make you happier, and so much so that the majority of college campuses have one. Exercise and social activities can help you combat SAD, as well as trying your best to regulate your sleeping period during the change of seasons, which is a challenge for all students.
SAD is extremely common in college students, affecting 13 percent of the population as stated by the Bates College Health Center. This disorder is more common in females than males. It is easier for college students to develop SAD because of the freedom that they are given to control their own lives. For instance, when you live at home, it is normal for someone to keep you accountable for when you go to sleep and when you wake up. In college, you are responsible for your sleeping schedule, so it is easier to either oversleep, or not get enough sleep. As we know, sleep is very important for the overall mental health. Lack of sleep can cause students to fall behind in classes. The workload increases over the semester, and puts more stress on your body, making it easier to fall into depression. Bates college concluded that, “southern latitudes to northern New England were the most likely to experience increased depression in winter.” For students new to the rainy weather that Washington has to offer, the risks of this disorder are higher.
There is a huge social stigma around mental illness, mainly because people are uneducated about such illnesses. Raising awareness on what SAD is will hopefully encourage you to help yourself, as well as your peers. It is important to tackle these symptoms before they get worse, and Saint Martin’s counseling center is readily available for any student who needs to talk. The counseling center has a lightbox that you can sit in front of to get a boost in your mood, and mental health specialists who are willing to help you.