SAD this winter?

Posted: December 24, 2010

Change of season brings change of mind

by Eamon Scanlon

Talon Staff Writer

Students shuffling through the hallways are seemingly more and more sluggish.  The daylight hours are waning, the temperatures are dropping and students are caring less and less.  Are people coming down with something?  It is possible that this is Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).

“During winter I always end up waking up late,” said freshman Sam Gerten. “Classes feel like they are never ending, and I just can’t wait for them to be over.  The coldness is distracting.” Gerten has not been tested for SAD, but these are symptoms of someone who has it.

Every year many students are affected by Seasonal Affective Disorder. Around four to nine percent of people feeling symptoms of SAD are actually diagnosed with it according to researchers at the Mayo clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.

Seasonal Affective Disorder is a form of depression that is caused by the change in the seasons, usually starting in the late fall and lasting through the winter months.  A usual cycle of SAD lasts around four months. The exact cause is not known, but thought to be the lack of light or change in hormones regulating a person’s emotion.  Living as far north as Minnesota could increase you chances or severity of SAD, because it gets very dark and very cold for a long time.

Signs of SAD are unusual sleepiness, mood swings and lack of interest in activities or work. There are proven methods for curing seasonal affective disorder. The most prominent are medications and therapy, but no cure that has  as increasing prosperity as the “happy light”.

A “Happy light”  is a light emitting box that works for a lot of its users.  The box emits light that mimics outdoor sunlight, which is thought to change the chemical structure of the brain to increase the happiness of your mood.  It gives users the vitamin D that is lost from the lack of natural sunlight. They can be purchased at most any drug store. There is more than one kind of box so you should test out your options before purchasing one. This may not work for everyone even though in a lot of cases it does completely cure the patient. All of these are quite expensive without insurance, but can potentially help you get over your depression for the winter.

“I work with people who have them right in their faces,” said Dr. Kim Peterson MD of Whittier Clinic in Hennepin County in reference to the “happy lights.”

“They’re so expensive.  I think the best thing to do is just go outside for a few minutes everyday during lunch or something,” said Dr. Peterson. “You could even just stand next to a big window or skylight. But if you can’t get outside for your day the lights work really well for some people.”

Since this disorder can cause grades to slip, the treatment could easily help users reclaim your GPA.  In high school your GPA is key to success later in life.  If your grades are continually slipping every year your chances of going to the college of your dreams may become more and more slim.
Unlike usual forms of depression SAD causes the person to sleep more throughout the day.  People also tend to carbo-load over the winter.  The reasons for this are unclear but are thought to be linked to the cold temperatures.  Both of these can cause you to gain weight, which could make you feel even worse.
If you feel you have any of these symptoms to a noticeable level you might have SAD.  SAD can ruin a season or even a life.  You could be one of the 12 million Americans suffering with this form of depression, and your chances are even higher if you are a woman, according to research from the Mayo clinic found at If you have symptoms, seek a doctor and attempt to get your problem fixed permanently. Your cure could come in the form of prescription or even  artificial sunlight.

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