Sam Gilbert is a journalism sophomore and Mustang Daily health columnist.
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) makes the sunlight during spring quarter just a bit brighter.
We never thought the day would come, but it’s official: Finals are over.
Now that we’re done furiously emailing our teachers to raise our grades and had a solid, week-long break to catch up on the sleep we obviously didn’t get, it’s time to focus on the important things in life: spring quarter and tanning at the Recreation Center.
Some might say this is narrow-minded and laying out in the sun all day is a waste of time.
I beg to differ.
If you’ve ever felt down during the dreary winter months or felt like your mood correlates with the clouds outside, don’t worry — you’re not alone. You’re just feeling SAD.
SAD, or Seasonal Affective Disorder, is a type of depression that occurs around a certain time of year, most often in the winter.
According to PubMed Health, SAD begins in the early teen years and adulthood. Unfortunately for us ladies, it’s also more common in women than men.
Approximately 5 percent of the United States population endures this disorder, with symptoms occurring for approximately 40 percent of the year.
Although SAD can also occur during summer months, it is more frequent during the autumn and winter months.
There are many different causes, but the main source is lack of sunlight.
WebMD’s website states that the exact causes of SAD are unclear. However, less sunlight tends to upset your sleep-wake cycle and other circadian rhythms. There is also a connection between the sun and serotonin, a brain chemical that affects mood.
It is often difficult to immediately diagnose SAD because the symptoms are extremely similar to nonseasonal depression.
Indications of any type of depression include feeling sad, grumpy, moody or anxious, losing interest in usual activities, eating more and craving carbohydrates, gaining weight, sleeping more and feeling drowsy during the daytime.
Sounds a lot like the symptoms of finals week, if you ask me.
A distinguishing factor between seasonal and nonseasonal depression is being depressed during a certain season and getting better once the season changes for at least two years in a row.
An additional factor to think about is whether or not any family members have been diagnosed with SAD.
The good news is there is treatment available for those with SAD. The first one comes in the form of light therapy.
According to MayoClinic’s website, in light therapy, also called phototherapy, you sit a few feet away from a light therapy box, which has light approximately 20 times brighter than a normal room light.
The light in the box mimics outdoor light in order to increase the brain chemicals associated with mood.
It generally starts to work in two to four days and has been shown to positively affect those who use it.
Hey, we may not be like University of Washington that has a light therapy box in its health center, but we always have doctors downtown.
The other sources of treatment include medications and psychotherapy, which are also recommended forms for those individuals with nonseasonal depression.
The most customary forms of antidepressant medications include paroxetine (Paxil), sertraline (Zoloft), fluoxetine (Prozac, Sarafem) and venlafaxine (Effexor). These medications should not be taken lightly and should be taken completely until symptoms go away.
The MayoClinic website reminds all readers to take note that it can take weeks to get rid of symptoms, and you may have to try different medications before you find one that works for you with the fewest side effects.
Psychotherapy is recommended because mood and behavior can add symptoms to the strange brain chemistry that results from SAD.
The most beneficial aspect to psychotherapy is the fact that you can identify exactly what negative thoughts and behaviors are affecting you, as well as find personal ways to cope with seasonal affective disorder and stress.
Now you see, there is no reason to judge every girl that complains she “just wants to be tanning.” It’s free happiness.
For even more reasons to go soak up the rays, wiseGEEK says more exposure to sunlight makes a big difference in how people feel, think and perform.
Sunlight also helps the body produce vitamins C and D.
“Vitamin D is an essential vitamin that helps with alleviating depression, aids in the absorption of other vitamins and minerals and is believed to help minimize the chances of developing several types of cancer,” wiseGeek’s website states.
With that said, who wants to go to the beach?