Winter Depression Affects Many

Christmaelle Vernet, Staff Writer

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It’s Winter. The season of holidays, snow, family, friends, and food. It seems as though winter should be the season to feel happy, right? For many that is just not the case. With the incoming cold, drab, and monotonous weather, comes feelings of depression, anxiety and PTSD. Those who suffer from panic and post traumatic stress disorders can describe the winter season as a ‘psychological hell’ with symptoms including fatigue, social withdrawal, hopelessness and depression.

      According to Kids Health.org, there are more than three million cases of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) in the US per year. SAD affects individuals of all ages, however, it is less common for those under 20.  In the rare cases involving teens, SAD can cause loss of motivation, lack of sleep, and irritability. Symptoms of SAD can become apparent any season of the year, but most cases are winter-onset.

       “Honestly, I hate snow,” said sophomore Amber Trimble. “So that keeps me cooped up inside all the time. When I can’t go outside and do things, I get depressed.”  Cases of SAD can last up to eight months, beginning in late fall until the early spring. There is no confirmed cause of SAD, but scientists have narrowed it down to a drop in serotonin and melatonin levels and your biological clock. SAD and depression traits can be passed down through blood relatives, and living far from the equator can be a key factor as well.

According to Webmd.com, symptoms of winter-onset SAD can include weight gain, cravings for sugary and starchy foods, avoidance of social situations, headaches, changes in sleep and so much more. Four to six percent of people suffer from winter depression while 10 to 20 people suffer from more mild cases of SAD pursuant to psychologytoday.com. “If a student thinks they become depressed during the early fall or winter they should speak to parent or guardian,” said BHS nurse Patricia Tucker.

       “There are many steps that can be taken when dealing with SAD,” said Tucker. “First, they would be diagnosed. There are alot of treatment options where they can learn skills and tools on what to do when feeling depressed; such as behavior therapy and light therapy where a special light can be purchased to help you feel more exposed to light; routine exercise 15-20 minutes a day, and getting enough Vitamin D.”

         “Talk to someone. Don’t bottle everything up, it only makes things okay for a while and then everything explodes. Do things that keep your mind occupied like drawing or coloring. It helps more than you think.” said Trimble. SAD can lead to substance abuse, social withdrawal, school and work problems, other mental health disorders such as anorexia and bulimia, and suicidal thoughts or behaviors.

       Gosnold School-Based Adjustment Counselor Raffaella Almeida, said “SAD can affect the serotonin and melatonin which are hormones in the brain. Go out, implement strategies when days get shorter. For example, if you like playing sports try to find an inside sport you like.” Gosnold is a nationally accredited non-profit leader in the prevention, treatment and recovery of mental health and substance use disorders. BHS has its own Gosnold representatives if you are feel like counselling might be an option for you. “No matter how hard it gets or how bad you feel, there is always someone to talk to. You can even come talk to me,” said Trimble.

      Almeida added that students and adults alike need to find activities they can enjoy in the winter as well as the other seasons. She suggests talking a walk with a friend and having a routine schedule of activities can help with seasonal depression. Also be aware of the wide variety of mental health specialists we have at BHS. Talking to a school-based adjustment counselor can help as well. “If your case of SAD is severe, Antidepressants can help with your symptoms. Only if the other options aren’t working. In the winter we tend to be outside less often and exercise less. If we try to stay as healthy as possible we’d feel better overall,” said Tucker.