Change in seasons, change in mental health

Cortnie Cottrell, News Writer

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As winter settles in quickly in Grand Forks, with leaves hitting the ground and snow covering them, Seasonal Affective Disorder is coming in full swing as well. Seasonal Affective Disorder, better known as seasonal depression, is a form of depression that comes and goes with the seasons. This disorder typically starts in the late fall and early winter and goes away during the spring and summer. With brutal, freezing temperatures, and outrageous winds here in Grand Forks, Seasonal Affective Disorder is real and should not be taken lightly. 

If someone has seasonal depression, they are known to have the following behaviors: low energy, hypersomnia, overeating, weight gain, craving carbohydrates and social withdrawal or demonstrating a ‘hibernating’ lifestyle.

Statistics show that being college-aged and living far from the equator are two of the most common aspects leading to seasonal depression, which unfortunately results in UND students being perfect candidates. On a more depressing note, females are four times more likely to experience seasonal depression than men according to nimh.nih.gov.

Contrary to common belief, seasonal depression relates more to lack of daylight rather than the harsh, cold temperatures. Yes, the temperatures do play a factor is this; however, shorter, darker days are what really affect people the most. 

Because seasonal depression has mostly to do with the lack of daylight, there is hope for overcoming this. 

According to Psychcentral.com, “if your symptoms are mild, meaning, if they do not interfere in and completely ruin your daily life, light therapy may help you beat seasonal depression.” 

Using light therapy has been shown to be highly effective. Studies prove that between 50% and 80% of light therapy users have complete remissions of symptoms. However, for light therapy to be successful, it must be used for a certain amount of time daily and continued throughout the dark, winter months. 

“Seasonal depression is a very real thing, and it has never felt more real since living in Grand Forks,” Haley Sailer a UND sophomore said. “Some ways that I combat falling into seasonal depression is by listening to positive music, working out and just staying busy in general. Staying busy keeps my mind on other things and off of the weather and the gloomy season months.”

A few other remedies for fighting seasonal depression are medication, psychotherapy and Vitamin D supplements. Medication that is typically used for decreasing seasonal depression is Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors and most recently approved by the FDA, bupropion. However, medication should not be taken without medical professional consultation first. 

“It may be a bit unrealistic, but a great way that UND could decrease the amount of seasonal depression for us students would be having a beach-themed simulation room,” Lukas Buth, senior UND student said. “The simulated, beach-themed room could have a heated sand floor with a somehow simulated warm sunshine shining down on us. I really think this would improve students’ mental health, especially in the dead of the Grand Forks winter.”

An additional option that UND students and staff have for combating seasonal depression is visiting the University Counseling Center. The UCC offers many different types of therapies to help with depression. For further information and questions, the UCC can be reached at 701-777-2127.

So as the weather gets colder and the days get shorter, being aware of your mental health and how it changes with the seasons is the first step in reducing the chance of this type of depression. Seek help, and don’t give up, spring is coming.

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