SAD in the Winter
Could Seasonal Affective Disorder Be Disrupting the Lives of Northeastern Students?
Becky Venne, a 31-year-old Northeastern graduate student, says she doesn’t socialize much in the winter. In fact, she claims that she finds it hard to get out of bed and spends most of her day watching T.V., satisfying her cravings for carbohydrates and starchy foods.
We’ve all experienced it at some point or another. The weather gets colder, the days become shorter, and no matter how much sleep you had the night before, you still feel tired. These, along with weight gain and feelings of sadness and lethargy are common during the winter months. But what happens when these feelings become debilitating, and begin affecting one’s personal life?
“There is a period of time that I think most people who have SAD realize there is more to it,” said Venne. “It wasn’t until I had some quiet time that I realized this isn’t normal.”
What Venne is referring to is Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a mood disorder that more commonly affects people of all ages in the Northern regions of the Unites States.
Although most people experience some forms of depression during the winter months, SAD is diagnosed when this change in mood becomes debilitating, causing a sever impact on the daily life of the individual.
Venne says she was diagnosed with SAD about five years ago, shortly after she moved to Boston. She describes her diagnoses as a long, drawn out process, jumping from doctor to doctor, until finally she found the right psychopharmacologist.
Dr. Elisa Castillo works at the Center For Counseling at Northeastern University, where she works with many students who have been diagnosed with SAD. She explained that there are always a few cases of SAD on campus, and her job is to find the right treatment for the sufferer.
“It appears that between 15% and 20% of people who live in northern regions may experience a less severe form of SAD where they experience some changes in mood and energy and are still able to function normally,” said Castillo. “However about 1-4% of people experience severe changes during winter seasons that do impact their ability to function normally.”
Venne, like all people with SAD, could not function normally during the winter, but it was difficult to find a doctor who could pin point exactly what it was that she was experiencing.
“It was hard to find a doctor who excepted the idea of SAD,” said Venne. “There are still many who don’t believe it is real.”
This seems to be a common problem for those in search of a diagnosis. The disorder was recognized in 1845, but it was only named and made official in 1980, making it is a fairly new mood disorder that is slowly gaining acceptance from doctors and psychologists.
Many times the symptoms of SAD, including excessive eating and sleeping, sadness, cravings for starchy and sugary foods, weight gain or loss, insomnia, and loss of desire to socialize or perform...