While the winter months wash over GVSU alongside a tidal wave of exam stressors, don’t write off the signs of being SAD.

| 11/28/12 10:07pm

At first glance, the idea of Seasonal Affective Disorder is easy to laugh off. First, it has an almost comically perfect acronym (SAD), which is presumably intentional, but feels goofy nonetheless. Along the same vein, the concept of it seems so simple and almost irrational. The weather gets gloomy, and it puts you in a bad mood – makes sense; but how does that constitute a diagnosis of depression?

According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, SAD affects only about six percent of the population in its “marked form,” but a lesser form of seasonal mood changes (usually called “winter blues”) affects another 14 percent. And although the name “winter blues” doesn’t bode well for encouraging seriousness, the effects SAD can have on a person – especially a student already under an unusually tremendous amount stress – it can be very serious.

Psychological stressors alone play a big role in the rise or fall of an academic career, and when those intangible emotions are internalized, they can make or break more than just a degree.

This is not to say that at times students (among others) don’t take the excuse and run with it in the turmoil of exam week – we know a good thing when we see it – but it is to call attention to something potentially harmful that students can easily write off as just another setback.

Though it’s usually only thought of in an emotional context, there is hard science behind SAD. Going from 15 hours of light in the summer to only nine hours of daylight in the winter months is a difference of six hours of natural light. For a lot of students, this means they head to school in pitch black, and come out of their last class in the pitch black, leaving virtually no room for non-academic activity in the daylight.

Need more hard evidence? Because vitamin D is the only vitamin that doubles as a hormone, it is absorbed into our bodies when skin is exposed to ultraviolet radiation found in natural sunlight and subsequently releases neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin, both of which affect our brains reward center and the levels of which can drastically affect our mood. So, SAD is a real thing.

If your classic case of the early morning no-hot-water-left-for-showering-I-just-burned-my-toast-why-is-this-happening-to-me weepies start happening on a regular basis, and then for no reason until eventually getting out of bed becomes a challenge all it’s own, then think about talking to someone – even if at first it just seems like a silly case of winter blues.

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