#DolphinsLiveWell: Seasonal Affective Disorder

Noah Gist, Counseling Center Intern

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As we get further into the fall semester, it’s not only important to stay on top of your schoolwork, but it’s just as important to take care of yourself too. It’s around this time of year when the leaves change color, the days get shorter, it starts getting colder and greyer outside, and the workload is just as stressful as ever, so it’s easy to get caught up in it all.

To be aware of what’s causing your stress or anxiety is nearly half the battle, so make sure to check up on yourself and take inventory as to what’s going on in your life. It’s okay to have some bumps along the way and to feel down sometimes, but if it persists, it’s good to check in and see what’s going on, as it’s not always what you might think it is.

Right about this time of year is when Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) starts to take hold on some folks, and sometimes it’s hard to know that’s what’s really going on, given the stress put on us already.

Much of the symptoms of SAD line up with those of depression, such as low energy, loss of interest in activities, feeling depressed most of the day for several days, sleeping troubles, and feeling sluggish or agitated only to name a few.

The difference between catch-all depression and SAD is that, as the name implies, SAD occurs for some people at very specific times of the year. The most common form occurs during the fall and winter, but there are cases where some people start feeling down in the spring and summer. These times of the year can also affect those with bipolar disorder, with fall triggering depressive episodes and spring, hypomania.

Some risk factors that might increase your risk of SAD include things like whether or not your family has a history of it, how far you live from the Equator, having depression or bipolar disorder already, gender – as SAD is four times more common in women than in men (statistic from the National Institution of Mental Health), and age (as younger people are more at risk than older adults).

Not to imply that having a rough couple of days in the fall means without a doubt you have SAD, but it’s important to keep in mind all of the possible variables that have sway over how you feel during times of high stress. Having a bad day or two is normal for anyone, but when it lasts for days or weeks on end, it’s important to get the help that you need.

Fortunately (you can probably see where this is going), the necessary help and services that you might need are right here on campus at the Wellness Center for Health and Counseling. If nothing else, reach out to some friends or family, and try and spend some time outside each day! We’ll still have the sunlight for a while yet, so enjoy the fall weather while it’s here!