Seasonal Affective Disorder disrupts morale at the Valley

Jacob Pitts
Staff Writer

Seasonal Affective Disorder can affect those who don't normally experience symptoms of depression or anxiety. COURTESY OF WWW.ACCESSHEALTHCARE.COM

Seasonal Affective Disorder can affect those who don’t normally experience symptoms of depression or anxiety.

The gloomy winter weather is starting to hit Hudson Valley, leaving some students feeling sad, overwhelmed and fatigued. These are just a few symptoms of seasonal affective disorder.

Also referred to as seasonal depression, seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, happens on a cyclical basis. Symptoms are more pronounced during specific times of the year but the most common occurrence is between fall and winter.

Seasonal affective disorder can happen to people who have no signs or symptoms of depression throughout the rest of the year. According to the National Institute for Mental Health, females are four times more susceptible than men, and young adults are the most commonly affected age group.

Counselor Kathleen Weeks said that some of the signs of seasonal affective disorder include “having low energy, feeling hopeless or worthless, feeling sluggish or agitated, having difficulty concentrating and going through appetite and weight changes.”

The main culprit for this on-and-off depressive pattern is the lack of light and vitamin D that begins to take place in autumn. Winter months are darker and the sun is out for a short period of time each day, which can be detrimental to our Vitamin D intake and increase the rate at which our bodies generate melatonin, the hormone that regulates sleep.

“A lot of people, especially in this region, may find that they are Vitamin D deficient. It’s cloudy here in the Albany-Troy area,” said Weeks. She added that the winter temperatures in the capital region also contribute to the problem. “Even if the sun was out, people still wouldn’t want to go outside in that temperature,” she said.

Luckily, there are many ways to alleviate the symptoms of seasonal affective disorder and maintain functionality during the rough winter months.

Light therapy is a common and effective method people suffering from seasonal affective disorder employ. The idea behind light therapy is it exposes you to a specialized artificial light for thirty minutes to an hour each day, usually in the morning.

The source of light is a lamp known as a lightbox. It is very bright but doesn’t use harmful ultraviolet rays. The light box simulates the sunlight that our bodies are craving during these tough months. However, staring directly at something so bright can cause eye problems, so it’s best to have it close to you without looking directly into it. A lot of people find that it is useful to simply have it next to them as they go about their morning routine.

As with most mental health issues, seasonal affective disorder can also be treated through prescribed medication. The antidepressants used to treat SAD are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, also known as SSRIs. It is important to consider that finding the right medication can take a few tries, so if you don’t find immediate relief, talk with your doctor about alternate antidepressants.

People who are concerned about seasonal affective disorder should also ensure that they’re getting enough Vitamin D. Foods rich in Vitamin D include fish, dairy and mushrooms. You can also take an over-the-counter Vitamin D supplement, but check with your doctor before doing so.
One of the most important things to remember is that you are not alone and it will get better. There’s no shame in asking for help, and people suffering often find relief in talking to others who are experiencing similar effects of seasonal affective disorder.

Hudson Valley offers a lot of tools to cope with symptoms, and counselors are always available to students who need guidance. Students can make appointments to meet with a counselor by visiting Counseling Services in room 260 of the Siek Campus Center, or by phone at (518) 629-7320.

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