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Feeling Sad?

Kelsey Anderson, Guest Columnist

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Do you have trouble falling asleep? Have you lost your appetite or motivation to spend time with friends this winter? This may be more than just a case of the “winter blues.” These symptoms may be part of a larger issue called Seasonal Affective Disorder, or winter depression. This major type of depression affects thousands of college students every year and 5 to 13 percent of the United States population overall. The population most likely to be affected is adolescent women. The changing of seasons brings less light and less activity for most college students, which can be harmful to their health.

Students facing Seasonal Affective Disorder may experience insomnia, changes in appetite and cravings, difficulty concentrating, increased tiredness or suicidal thoughts. These and other symptoms can greatly affect a student’s academic and social lives. The stress of classes and other responsibilities can feel like too much to handle. Season of Affective Disorder can have several causes. A person’s biological clock, or circadian rhythm, can be affected by sunlight availability during the winter months. This disruption causes a drop in the levels of serotonin, which plays a crucial role in mood regulation. Levels of Melatonin can also be affected; a hormone meant to regulate mood and sleep patterns.

Treatment can include several options. Multiple universities have resources available for students facing Seasonal Affective Disorder. The continuing bias surrounding depression is a huge barrier to numerous students receiving treatment. Consciously eating healthy and exercising, especially outdoors, can decrease symptoms. Light therapy with a light box can regulate serotonin and melatonin levels. These devices emit a balanced spectrum of light, minus harmful UV rays. They are meant to mimic the light that is experienced on a spring morning.

Certain medication can also bring some relief. Dr. Norman E. Rosenthal is a researcher and psychiatrist who led the team that first described Seasonal Affective Disorder and developed light therapy to treat it.

He comments, “If you find that despite all your best efforts, you are falling behind in your work, or that your health is suffering physically or emotionally, seek out professional help. Antidepressants and other strategies can be very helpful. You don’t have to do it all yourself.”

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