By TJ Boland, Staff Writer
Do you experience any of the following during the winter season: mood swings, depression, or even increased apathy towards life? If so, you may be one of the growing number of Americans diagnosed with SAD: Seasonal Affective Disorder. SAD can be generally categorized by normal mental health during most of the year, but depressive symptoms during the winter months.
Walter Payton’s school psychologist, Leah Ruzich, explains that SAD is “different from the winter blues” in the sense that it is characterized by depression-like symptoms experienced “almost every single day.” SAD can also affect your circadian rhythms causing you to receive too much or too little sleep. Ruzich points out that this change in circadian rhythm can affect your “alertness throughout the day,” potentially causing you to “become more tired at times when you normally aren’t.”
It is normal, natural, and good for you to become tired during certain times of the day, as this is part of your general circadian rhythm. However, when your rhythm shifts towards becoming more tired during daylight hours and more awake during the evening in winter, it could be a sign of SAD.
Inside of Walter Payton, “the mood of the school changes during the winter months,” Ruzich says, noting however that “this is not necessarily a sign of the whole school having SAD,” rather a sign of winter blues as we adjust to colder temperatures and dimmer conditions.
One Payton student, who wished to remain anonymous, shared that her SAD makes it “harder for her to wake up when it is dark and stormy out.” She added that she has a light designed to alleviate symptoms from the dimmer conditions outside but that unfortunately, “it does nothing for me.”
Aside from light therapy, a treatment in which patients are exposed to a very bright light to increase Vitamin D, other potential remedies to alleviate the symptoms of SAD include Vitamin D supplements, therapy, or in severe cases, medication. All of these should only be attempted with proper medical consultation.
Students who are concerned about their mental health should inquire about potential treatment options with any Payton counselor, who can be sure to refer them in the right direction.