Techniques Available to Shed Some Light on Seasonal Depression

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Techniques Available to Shed Some Light on Seasonal Depression

Drawn by Brittany Rodriguez

Drawn by Brittany Rodriguez

Drawn by Brittany Rodriguez

Drawn by Brittany Rodriguez

Mikayla Kudron, A&E Editor

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Feeling lazy, unmotivated, and unhappy during the colder months is common for many people, but for some, it goes deeper. For people with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), nothing can break the barrier of sadness they feel when the days are at their shortest. SAD causes intense negative feelings over the fall and winter months. SAD is very common, especially in females, and the United States has 3 million cases per year.

The symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder are more than just unhappiness. People with SAD may feel profound hopelessness, irritability, anxiety, and detachment during the colder months. One WSHS staff member was willing to talk about his battle with SAD. “It always feels like your dog just died or something,” said Mr. Svec, a WSHS history teacher who has experienced symptoms of SAD since childhood. Those who have SAD may also experience a drastic change in appetite, weight, and sleeping patterns. Losing interest in activities that you once enjoyed is common as well. Mr. Svec compares the symptoms of SAD to the feeling of crashing after an energy drink. The symptoms of SAD are very similar to those of depression, the most important difference being that SAD is prevalent during fall and winter.

The reason for these drastic seasonal mood changes has not been indefinitely determined, but the most likely factor is light. Chemically, light gives us Vitamin D, which is important in keeping our energy levels up. Sunlight, specifically, can also cause our brains to release serotonin, a neurotransmitter. Having not enough serotonin can cause depression. Having a healthy amount of serotonin can make people experience happiness. In theory, sunlight produces serotonin, which produces happiness and productivity. Therefore, when the days get shorter, people are exposed to less sunlight and will sometimes feel depressed as a result. “It’s normal for you to feel like this, but you don’t have to feel like this,” Mr. Svec explained. To experience relief, many people with SAD have turned to light therapy. A visor or light box that produces ultraviolet radiation, similar the light the sun produces, is used to encourage serotonin production. Meeting with a therapist can help ease the symptoms of SAD as well, as talking about one’s emotions and finding answers is proven to help the individual gain control over their illness.

Antidepressants can be prescribed and taken during the fall and winter to regulate emotions. Taking Vitamin D supplements every day can also help regulate your emotions. Alternatively, the little things can help as well. “When you’re less busy you tend to get introspective,” Mr. Svec said, “You have to get out of your own echo chamber.”

Try a new form of exercise, or exercise more often, as exercise is proven to increase one’s mood. Find a new activity, even if it’s just temporarily, for something new and exciting in your life. Eating fruits and vegetables, which are rich in vitamins, can help as well. You have options, and you can gain control over your seasonal depression.