Dealing with Seasonal Affective Disorder in College

The ‘January blues’ or ‘winter blues’ is a challenge for many Canadians, including college students. Once the holidays end, it’s back to school and back to responsibility, which is a transition many students just don’t want to make. Plus, the cold weather can make this transition even more daunting and depressing. Depression during the winter is known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). It can affect many college students and dealing with the issue begins with educating yourself. Below are the symptoms, causes, and treatments for SAD.

The Cause and Symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder

SAD is simply defined as seasonal depression that happens most commonly during the colder months. Symptoms of this disorder include fatigue, loss of appetite, lack of motivation, trouble concentrating, agitation, weight loss, insomnia and restlessness, suicidal thoughts, decreased interest in personal and social activities, and feelings of hopelessness. Seasonal affective disorder is caused by a reduction in the hormones serotonin and melatonin due to reduced sunlight during the winter. Serotonin controls mood, while melatonin causes sleepiness. Changes in these hormones can lead to depression or SAD. If you find you’re having suicidal thoughts, please seek help immediately.

How Seasonal Affective Disorder is Treated

Light therapy is the most common and most effective way to treat this disorder. This therapy comes in the form of a light therapy box, which students can purchase from many places online or that they may be able to borrow from their doctor’s office. The box mimics natural light and helps to increase and balance serotonin and other hormones. Treatment requires the patients to sit in front of the box every day until the symptoms disappear. Patients may also be prescribed psychotherapy or antidepressant medication as supplemental or alternative treatments. Psychotherapy teaches patients how to manage stress and cope with their symptoms, while antidepressants help regulate chemicals in the brain,  reducing certain symptoms.

Getting Help Around Campus

First, seasonal affective disorder must be diagnosed by a physician, but there are some campus resources that can help you as well. For example, you could visit the college’s health centre to get a preliminary diagnosis or rule out the possibility that your symptoms are caused by another health condition. You could also seek therapy from one of the specialists at the school’s counselling centre. Talking to, or simply hanging out with, friends or roommate(s) could also help you cope with some of the symptoms.

Some colleges even have student organizations designed to help students who are suffering from depression or other mental health issues. Being in touch with a community is often an effective coping mechanism for depression. If you’re living in London, Ontario apartments for students, like Foundry First, this type of off-campus housing offers a rich sense of community.

Reasons Why Some Students are More Susceptible to SAD

Seasonal Affective Disorder can affect anyone, but some individuals are more susceptible to it than others. For example, young adults are more susceptible to the disorder than older adults, which is why it’s so common among college students. Those living in colder environments, such as Canada, are also more likely to develop SAD. Finally, female students have a higher susceptibility to the disorder than male students because of differences in hormone levels.

If you think you may be experiencing some of the symptoms of SAD, please talk to your doctor about additional things you can do to overcome or at least cope with these challenges.