Winter Blues

About 6 of every 100 people in the United States have Seasonal Affective Disorder, but about 10 percent of people in Vermont have symptoms of SAD,  according to a recent UVM study.

image00Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) affects many people in our local community. Since 10 percent of Vermonters are affected by this disorder it is very possible people in our school are affected by it. Many students said that they believed many people in our school community, and our general region were probably affected by SAD because of our location. “The seasons have more dramatic changes here so I think it is more likely that you would have this disorder, so there are most likely people in our school, and around us that have this disorder,” Madi Woodard explained.

“Since its cold for a long time and you can’t really do a lot of things it is probably more common for people here to have this disorder than other places,” U-32 student Natalie Lavigne continued to say, “people could also see these affects on their body because in the winter here it gets darker so much earlier.”

Senior Shelby McManis said that she has seen some people in our school community struggle with SAD. “I know some foreign exchange students that come here experience SAD because of the cold winters that we have.”

School counselors aren’t responsible to provide treatments for those who are experiencing SAD, but, “We can be used as a first step and be a connection to someone who is an expert, who can provide a treatment,” says Cairsten Beanland, from student services. “I definitely think there’s a correlation between seasons and people feeling sad and down, and my instinct would be to talk to someone you trust, maintaining a healthy diet, and exercising.”

Scott Harris, a counselor from U-32 student services said, “There’s definitely a lot of people who are affected by SAD, school included.” Harris’s insight on the effective treatments for this disorder was, “there is counseling, medication, getting outside, getting exercise, taking vitamin D, and staying engaged with different activities.”

One of the teachers here at U-32, Caroline Grace has had experience with Seasonal Affective Disorder, but she said, “I’ve only heard about this disorder since I’ve lived in Vermont, I never heard about it before.” Caroline uses one of the light boxes to help her. “The light helps because in the winter we do not get as much sunlight, so we lack in vitamin D.” Throughout the winter Caroline uses the light box while she is working at her desk, and she said, “it really has helped.”image02

Seasonal Affective Disorder can be hard to diagnose because the symptoms are very similar to other types of depression. For those who experience SAD, they will notice that they have been depressed during the same seasonal period for the last two years. SAD symptoms can include the following:  fatigue, weight and appetite changes, oversleeping, loss of interest in hobbies and social activities, difficulty concentrating, and low mood. There are two general treatments; light therapy, and cognitive behavioral therapy.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy is an effective, non-drug treatment for many different types of depression. Cognitive-behavioral therapy has been proven to be less effective than light therapy in the treatment of SAD in the recent UVM study.

Light therapy is a newer treatment for SAD. A light box device has been designed specifically for use in treating Seasonal Affective Disorder, and you can buy them over the counter. It is strongly suggested that you see a doctor for a specific treatment for SAD since the light therapy can cause sleeping problems if used incorrectly.

People who may have SAD may start to notice some of the symptoms soon since winter is approaching quickly, and we are losing daylight. So make sure you are spending as much time outside during the day as you can!