How Not to Be SAD: Dealing With Seasonal Affective Disorder in the Wintertime
Any resident of Oregon can accept it as fact that with the season of winter comes a season of drizzling days and cold streaks, with the help of evergreens to spruce things up. What is lesser known, however, is that for a surprisingly large amount of those Oregonians, the grey season also draws in a more unfortunate side effect. Many people unknowingly live with a condition called Seasonal Affective Disorder, quite aptly known as SAD.
SAD is a form of depression, linked to the changing of weather and other conditions tied to different seasons. In its most commonly identified form SAD starts up and ends at the same time each year around mid-fall to winter, with an estimated 26 percent of the human population experiencing severe to mild cases of SAD. Whilst the actual condition of depression is indiscriminate in who has it, the specific manifestation of SAD tends to be most common in areas with colder, darker winters than elsewhere. This, of course, leaves the Pacific Northwest’s population fairly susceptible to development of the disorder.
“When I mention [SAD] in class, I see a lot of heads nodding. I think that, especially in darker states, obviously Alaska, Oregon, Washington, we are more affected by it. And it appears that many teens indicate they have some level of either depression, or comfort eating, or hibernation, just wanting to stay inside,” said Elisabeth Saxe, the psychology and sociology teacher at South.
Luckily, there have been recent technological developments in an effort to treat SAD. Light therapy, as it is known, is the practice of prolonged exposure to bright lights designed to closely imitate natural daylight. In doing so, the brain chemicals linked to mood and sleep are stimulated to act as they would under the circumstances of sunnier seasons, thus stabilizing the lethargic symptoms. Due to the fact that it has little to no side effects, light therapy has become an increasingly popular method of treatment for not only SAD and other forms of depression, but sleep disorders, dementia, and even jet lag. Exposure to sunlight has been found to be a far more important physiological and psychological aspect of human health than initially noticed, making these new therapeutic methods a significant step forward in the medical world. Not only does it offer a gentle, effective treatment to intensive conditions, but also indicates a growing, more nurturing worldview on the topic of mental health.