Feeling SAD? There Might Be a Reason

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Whoever named the gloom that accompanies winter for many people,“Seasonal Affective Disorder” (SAD) has a sick sense of humor.

For those in the dark (this joke will make sense in a second), SAD is a mood disorder characterized by depression that occurs at the same time every year. It is often brought about by the coldness and darkness that envelops the world as winter kills fall.

The difference between a seasonal affective disorder and clinical depression is that the former occurs during specific periods of time, while the latter is a year-round endeavor. To be diagnosed with seasonal affective disorder, one must have experienced a noticeable change in mood during specific time frames for at least two years.

Here’s a checklist, in case you’re still not sure. Have you experienced any of these recently?

  • Having low energy

  • Hypersomnia

  • Overeating

  • Weight gain

  • Craving for carbohydrates

  • Social withdrawal (feel like “hibernating”)

Another interesting tidbit about seasonal affective disorder? Women are four times more likely to be diagnosed with the disorder than men.

Image by Martin Winkler on Pixabay

“The cold literally makes me want to curl up into a ball and lay in my bed and not get out,” said sophomore Maria Ruiz on the changing seasons. “At 4 p.m. when it gets dark… I become completely unproductive.”

This phenomenon impacts college students in particular, according to an article by AccuWeather. The article features an interview from Norman Rosenthal, M.D., author of “Winter Blues”, a book on the seasonal affective disorder, who spoke up about college and seasonal affective disorder.

“In high school, parents have helped children get up and going in the morning,” said Rosenthal. “Now all of a sudden they’re in college. Students stay up late, they drink more, they sleep late, they skip their morning class or they drag themselves in, but are not functioning.”

Rosenthal also says cases of the disorder are known to spike around the holidays. Michael Katski, a junior at UMD, says his motivation goes out the window after Thanksgiving. 

“Everything comes to a crawl,” he said. The short break, he says, lulls students into a false sense of security now that the stress of the semester is winding down. “But then you get thrown right back to it. Like, ‘Just kidding! Here are another two weeks of Hell!’ It sucks.”

Image by Foundry Co on Pixabay

Luckily, medication and psychotherapy have been shown to help affected individuals manage their symptoms. Or, if the thought of those makes your wallet tremble, Vitamin D and light therapy are also approved treatments.

Light therapy is used as a replacement for diminished daylight in the fall and winter. It comes in the form of bright lamps, which the patient is exposed to for a set amount of hours a day. The best part? The University of Maryland has light therapy lamps available for loan at the Terrapin Learning Commons!

Vitamin D supplements can be used to replace the Vitamin D our body loses as a result of being exposed to less sunlight and can be found at most drugstores.

Obviously, if your sadness isn’t something you think will be fixed with a vitamin and a lamp, contact your doctor or the on-campus counseling center for professional help. Take care of yourselves, Terps! Only a few weeks left!