Students and faculty struggle with seasonal affective disorder


‘Tis the season for shoveling snow, trying to stay warm and following the weather report like it’s a sports team, but there is also a disorder associated with this time of year called Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD.

Junior intervention specialist major, Lydia Althouse, takes in some vitamin D from the sun in order to keep a good attitude as winter nears. (Photo by Cammera Archie)

According to the MayoClinic, SAD is a depressive disorder that occurs due to seasonal changes, often during the transition from the warmer and lighter summer months to the colder and darker fall and winter months. Though those months are the most common time to experience SAD, people experience this  form of depression in other seasons as well.

A person affected by SAD will feel these depressive moods at the same time every year during that particular season. Symptoms include feelings of hopelessness, loss of energy, social withdrawal, difficulty concentrating and weight gain.

The key to understanding SAD is to know how the human body works in relation to our environment. The human body needs vitamin D, which it gets from sunlight. Vitamin D is used in our body to create the neurotransmitter chemicals serotonin and melatonin. Serotonin affects mood and melatonin helps you sleep.

Lacking these neurochemicals results in a depressive mood and distorted sleeping patterns. Due to the lack of light which affects the body’s biological clock, also known as our circadian rhythm, those affected may experience insomnia or sleep too much.

“Having been a farmer, I like being outside with the sunshine; it makes me feel good,” said Jason Scibona, a graduate leadership major.

According to MayoClinic, SAD can be found in both genders. Although it’s more common in females, males with the disorder tend to have more severe symptoms.

Skip Garner, freshman undecided major, said, “I tend to be less happy in the winter, especially when it’s cloudy. I am used to the sunny and chilly winters with few snow falls back in Tennessee. The most recent snowfall hints that the winter is going to be harsh, which depresses me even more knowing that I won’t be seeing the sun very often.”

When people stay indoors, the chances to get sunlight are even more limited than the amount given in winter during midday.

Tammie McKenzie, professor of communication arts, said, “I experience disorientation because you know it is still day but it’s dark outside. So most people go to work when it’s dark in the morning, spend the daylight inside an office or building working, and when they leave to go home it’s dark again, and that really takes its toll on people.”

According to MayoClinic, there are several quick fixes to SAD; the most common is diet. Milk is a good source of vitamin D but it is very fatty, so a good alternative would be eggs, especially the yolk, which also doubles as a good source of protein.

Another option is to buy vitamin D in pill form and take it daily as a dietary supplement.

A final way to combat SAD is to get outside and see and feel the sun as often as you can; even standing inside a warm building by a large window is enough to help alter your mood for the day.


Cody Myers is a contributing writer for the Aviso AVW.

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