Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a form of depression that occurs during the stretch of cold, cloudy and snowy days. It can happen to anyone, and some students at NAU are among those who experience it every year.
Some may dismiss SAD as just a small case of the blues, but if it progresses, the signs can begin to show. Some symptoms can include fluctuations of sleep and appetite, lack of motivation, increase in anxiety and anti-social behavior.
SAD usually occurs at the same time every year for those affected by it. If people are new to a climate that remains cold for long periods of time, it can become a big issue. Even if the weather starts to improve, SAD may continue to be prevalent into mid to late spring. Freshman Charles “Chaz” Stackpole has experienced SAD and has also noticed it in others during his first year at NAU.
“I know people who have gone through it at NAU, and I have experienced it too,” Stackpole said. “It starts to happen when it stays cold and gloomy for long periods of time.”
Stackpole said because he is from Phoenix, he has never experienced something like SAD until moving to Flagstaff. He said it seemed like it was a difficult time transitioning between the seasons until the weeks leading up to finals and winter break when he started noticing the effects of SAD on himself and others.
Loss of interest in hobbies or activities is also among the most common symptoms. This may lead to students being holed up in their rooms for long periods of time, which can worsen the symptoms immensely.
Freshman Renae McKale has become aware of these symptoms in some of her fellow peers during the course of the colder months.
“Those that I know that have gone through it have gone through sudden mood changes that include loss of interest and anxiety,” McKale said. “They were always sleeping or not sleeping enough as well as becoming less social and more irritable. I think the hardest part about it for some people is seeking out a way to get better even if it seems hard at first.”
Senior Delaney Strizich has also been affected by SAD during the four years she has attended NAU.
“For me, I usually tend to see the effects of [SAD] in the evenings when it gets dark earlier,” Strizich said. “It makes me feel melancholy and tired when I really shouldn’t be. When it stays really gloomy outside, I just feel like staying in bed all day.”
Although there is an abundance of symptoms caused by SAD, that doesn’t mean there aren’t solutions out there to help people deal with it. Through trial and error, people that deal with the disorder have found what works best for them. Some of these solutions include treatments such as using happy lamps, consulting friends or family and even talking to a professional.
“The most common way that I found to treat SAD is to buy a happy lamp,” Strizich said. “A happy lamp helps me to get natural light when it stays cloudy for a while. I have one that I turn on in the morning to help me get up and get motivated for the day. I also sit in front of it when I find myself getting down.”
Strizich said a happy lamp is a generalized name for a lamp that gives off natural light.
McKale has also seen what works best for the people she knows that experience SAD as it gets colder. She said self-care is one of the most important parts to individually manage the disorder.
“Taking care of yourself can really help bring you out of a low place if you are feeling bad,” McKale said. “It is also important to be there for those people who are going through it so that they know they aren’t alone and they have an outlet to talk to.”
SAD can be a really hard circumstance to deal with, especially for students who have a variety of responsibilities to attend to. Seeking help or finding ways that work for treating it could be crucial to having a positive semester.