NEWBERG, ORE. - Students coming from states like Southern California may have been excited to leave their hometown for the beautiful green of Oregon. For students who have been deprived of nature and rain, especially in drought-riddled states, the move means joyful days spent indoors to the soundtrack of rain and smell of freshly brewed tea.
However, family members familiar with Oregon may have handed down some important advice before their student arrived on campus: beware the onset of seasonal depression. Also known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), seasonal depression is a subtype of depression or bipolar disorder that occurs and ends around the same time every year. Seasonal depression typically occurs when the seasons change.
Most symptoms begin in the fall and continue into the winter months. However, seasonal depression can occur in the summer or spring, although this is less common.
Although SAD and standard depression are similar, there are ways to tell the two apart, making the issue fairly simple to self-diagnose. Symptoms that are typically more common in seasonal depression than in other forms of depression are carbohydrate craving, increased appetite, excessive sleepiness, and weight gain.
So, why exactly would students feel this way? The reduced level of sunlight in the fall and winter months may affect an individual’s serotonin, a neurotransmitter that affects mood. Lower levels of serotonin have been shown to be linked to depression.
Melatonin, which affects sleep patterns and mood, is produced at increased levels in the dark. Therefore, when the days are shorter and darker the production of this hormone increases.
For students who are wondering how they can go about this problem, there are a few methods that doctors recommend and patients say have helped. One of these methods is light box therapy. Though odd-sounding, the therapy just involves a light that mimics natural outdoor light, to make up for the sunlight that a person is missing.
Make sure to also exercise, because the product of effort is not only keeping in shape, but also in releasing feel-good chemicals. Students can also add a supplement of vitamin D, known as the sunshine vitamin, to their diet. People suffering from depression are often found to be low in this particular vitamin.
Reported by Haelley Hogan
Photographed by Olivia Berglund