When Jennifer Perea, a freshman theatre major, wakes up to a
sunny Colorado morning, she feels happy, refreshed and ready for
the day. But those mornings that begin with dark skies and cold
weather often affect her mood the most.
“I get in a bad mood,” she said. “My boyfriend always knows that
I’m in a bad mood when the weather’s gloomy.”
Some students like Perea are affected by winter weather every
year, some even dropping into bouts of depression that last only
during certain cold-weather months. Feelings of withdrawal,
decreased appetite, sleep disturbances and loss of pleasure in some
things are all signs of depression. These symptoms could
potentially be a sign of Seasonal Affective Disorder if they are
only prevalent in the fall and winter.
Dr. Richard Brown, co-author of “Stop Depression Now,” a book on
SAD, said in his the disorder affects about 20 percent of the
There is speculation as to the reasons people feel the “winter
blues” during the fall and winter seasons, but not the spring and
Ernie Chavez, director of the psychology department, said a lack
of exercise, shorter days and depression-prone genetics all factor
into people’s moods during the winter months.
“You want to monitor it for a couple years and be able to
separate the naturally occurring cycles in mood from something that
could be considered SAD,” he said.
Chavez said variations in mood and behavior are natural in
people’s lives, especially during the winter months when the days
are shorter, causing less sunlight.
Allison Hill, a freshman mechanical engineering major, said a
late night of socializing and then sleeping in the next morning can
cause her to feel depressed.
“If I sleep in until 2 or 3 (during the winter), I only get a
few hours of daylight,” she said. “That’s depressing, you have to
see the sun sometimes.”
Melatonin, a sleep-related hormone that is produced in the dark,
has been linked to SAD. It is produced in increased levels in the
dark and causes the sleepy feeling one gets right before falling
asleep, similar to depression. This means when a person does not
receive a certain amount of sunlight, or ultraviolet rays, the
melatonin levels increase, causing symptoms of depression.
Different treatment options aimed to combat SAD symptoms have
surfaced recently. Some companies claim that purchasing UV lamps
will lower melatonin levels. But the patient would have to spend
close to an hour sitting in front of the lamp, Chavez said.
The University Counseling Center does not offer the UV light
treatments and Chavez cautions that these types of treatments can
be harmful to the patient’s skin and eyes if not used
He said the “safest and easiest” way to treat SAD or depression
in general is therapy in combination with anti-depressant
Questions regarding depression and treatment can be answered at
the University Counseling Center in the basement of the Clark
building C-wing or at 491-6053.
Tips to avoid depression:
Source: Dr. Richard Brown professor of clinical psychiatry at
Monitor your diet-Eat a balanced diet. Take your vitamins and
make sure to get your fruits and vegetables, avoiding refined
sugars that can alter your mood.
Exercise and Breathe-Physical exercise may release hormones and
chemicals that restore your body’s balance. Yoga is also helpful
for relieving feelings of anxiety due to its breathing and
Talk to your doctor- they might recommend certain treatments and
therapy right for you
Socialize- socializing engages the mind and forces you to think
constructively, helping to overcome feelings of loss and