Are you SAD?


| 3 Comments

Ah, State College weather.  This fall was a tease for us because from the weekend we moved back into school until only a few weeks ago, it was a nice warm summer day, everyday.  Now that fall has truly set in, it's kind of back to reality for us Staters.  Fall is here, winter is coming, and there is no going back to the days of shorts and flip flops until we pack up our dorms and apartments and head home in May.  I've noticed since high school, many people are starting to talk more and more about seasonal depression, which is defined as seasonal affective disorder, where one becomes depressed, sad and or moody at a certain time of year, usually in the fall and winter.  

I always thought that it was just the gloomy months of darkness, lots of work and limited things to do that made me feel down in the dumps, but looking into research, I can see how this is actually a real disorder that can affect many people.  Being up here at Penn State, there is never a dull moment, but I know I've had my fair share of times throughout the winter where it seemed getting out of bed, doing work or even feeling down.  According to this article, having a few weeks of sadness doesn't necessarily qualify for one to be affected by SAD, but if it is recurring, then it's a possibility you may have it. Treatments for SAD include light therapy, where exposure to more light (and vitamin D) helps trigger chemicals in the brain to change mood, some medications and regular psychotherapy.  

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Do you think there is any other causes to SAD, more than a change in temperature? Have you ever thought if you might have SAD? If so, let's hope we can beat the serious winter blues!

3 Comments

I think the reason people are usually victims of SAD is because there is a lot less to do in the fall/winter time that involves the outdoors. Most people are happiest when they are outside and being active. However, when it is freezing, snowing and icy no one wants to be hanging out with their friends outside. According to these symptoms of SAD, I think I've definitely had it before. My sleep around this time increases, I have less energy so it impairs my ability to concentrate, and I am overall less happy and I find myself more irritable over small things. Then, when spring and summer come around, I am as happy and energetic as can be. It's funny what seasons can do to a person's mood.

Similar to you, Jamie, I have become more familiarized once coming to college with this concept of seasonal depression occurring in the winter months. It occurred to me that perhaps I too was a victim of this "sadness" but wasn't too knowledgeable of the topic. After doing some research I learned that having SAD is more common that we think, and researchers at Ithaca College in upstate NY (nearly identical winter temperature averages of that of State College) found that the winter in this college town can cause 1 in 4 students to experience these "winter blues" (The Cornell Daily Ref. 1).
On the contrary, I also came across an article arguing that “winter depression is not as common as we think” (Science Daily Ref. 2). Since both you and I felt we may suffer from this sadness with little knowledge of it, check out this article to see if maybe we are disillusioned.
To close, I created an experiment to test individuals if they actually suffer the disease or are we “overestimating the impact of winter”.
Take a group of 100 randomized PSU students to spend their 4 years as an undergrad recording their emotional experiences in the winter months. These same 100 students will spend their next 4 years studying in graduate school at University of California also recording their emotional experiences in the same months. This experimental study will hopefully eliminate the variable of personal induced depression or temperature caused depression.

Jamie, really good article about SAD. It's an extremely common occurrencethat a surprising amount are unaware of! I can't cure SAD but this is a pretty awesome song about SAD lights that will at least cheer you up for a bit!
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ke5PGH_7D7g

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