Spring is almost here, so it’s time to shake off the winter blues. However, for some people, it’s not that simple.
Seasonal affective disorder is a type of depression that occurs at the same time every year. Typically, people with seasonal affective disorder begin to show symptoms in the fall, and these symptoms may continue into the winter months, zapping energy and causing changes in mood or behavior.
According to the Mayo Clinic, the specific cause of seasonal affective disorder remains unknown; however, one of the two main factors can be a drop in serotonin, a brain chemical affecting mood. Reduced sunlight, as is common in winter months, can cause a drop in serotonin that may trigger depression. The change in seasons can also disrupt the balance of the natural hormone melatonin, which plays a role in sleep patterns and mood.
The winter weather swept into Indiana and refused to budge for a good four months, so even those who might not normally be affected by the disorder may have seen a change in energy, mood or behavior. Most people would write this off as the winter blues or mid-semester slump, simply because many college students aren’t aware this condition exists.
We have counseling services provided at Purdue, so why hasn’t CAPS made a larger effort to raise awareness for this type of disorder, especially since we have faced one of the worst winters in Indiana history? It would certainly behoove all of us to have all the help we can get fighting off the moodiness and disinterest that can accompany seasonal affective disorder.
We need to see a push for awareness in this area. People cannot begin to seek treatment for something they are simply writing off as normal cabin fever, and there can be serious consequences if they don’t.
Seasonal affective disorder can lead to or increase suicidal thoughts or behavior, social withdrawal, school or work problems and substance abuse. This issue can be serious enough to cause dangerous behavior, and we should give those who suffer from it the care they deserve. We cannot do so unless they know what they are experiencing isn’t normal.
It can be as simple as a flyer which lists the signs and symptoms of the disorder, with contact information for those at CAPS who can help with a diagnosis process. Or, if it’s a simple case of the winter blues, information can be passed along of some treatments to help keep moods boosted and students focused until spring rolls around again.
Some of those home remedies, according to the Mayo Clinic website, include:
• Make your environment sunnier and brighter. Open the blinds, trim tree branches blocking the sunlight, or add skylights to your home. Sit closer to bright windows while at home or in the office.
• Get outside. Take a long walk, eat lunch at a nearby park, or simply sit on a bench and soak up the sun. Even on cold or cloudy days, outdoor light can help − especially if you spend some time outside within two hours of getting up in the morning.
• Exercise regularly. Physical exercise helps relieve stress and anxiety, both of which can increase seasonal affective disorder symptoms. Being more fit can make you feel better about yourself, too, which can lift your mood.