Winter may cause SADness

Feb 052004
Authors: Taylour Nelson

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

Columbia University

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

meditative practices.

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


 Posted by at 5:00 pm

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.