Winter and inversion season is in full swing in the Salt Lake Valley.
With snow blowing through the streets and the air thick with smog, some may begin to get the “winter blues” as spring crawls closer.
It’s the time of year where many feel down or lethargic, trading outdoor activities for binging Netflix on the sofa. This feeling of exhaustion and loss of interest isn’t normal though; it’s a documented illness that effects 5 percent of Americans each year.
Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, isn’t something discussed frequently in the valley, but its effects are well known.
“Without the sun and then the inversion, I just want spring to be here,” says Darryl Godfrey, Vice President of Clubs and Organizations at the Student Association. “If I could skip this time of year, I would.”
Godfrey’s feelings of contempt for this time of year aren’t unusual. More than 3 million Americans deal with SAD during the winter, and some are even at more risk than others.
In fact, women make up four out of five of those affected, and the onset begins in young adulthood.
The onset of SAD begins between 20 and 33 years of age and can be triggered or compounded by other life stressors like school. More than half the student population at SLCC fits this description.
Symptoms of depression make it difficult to focus while in class and could seriously affect a student’s ability to perform well.
Scott Kadera, the counseling manager at SLCC, says, “If you’re going through mood changes, you might not realize what’s going on. You’ll be more susceptible to stress and things seem magnified.”
Kadera spent some time in Alaska, where SAD is even more prevalent. Studies show that the farther from the equator someone is, the higher their risk of SAD. He says that in almost 30 percent of the people he spoke with where affected by SAD.
SAD is thought to be caused by a lack of light during winter months, which doesn’t allow the brain to create necessary chemicals. Kadera advises students to come into the Center for Health and Counseling if they feel they are dealing with SAD.
“You’ll get students who come in with that pattern of just struggling during this time of year,” said Kadera.
Godfrey echoes this by saying that he’s already referred a student to the center for counseling, and he expects to see more as winter continues.
“The semester just started, so we haven’t seen much yet, but we don’t usually have students coming in until late January or mid-February,” says Godfrey.
Luckily, treating SAD can be simple.
If someone is dealing with SAD. a lightbox that has a lux of 10,000 could be the key to feeling better.
Kadera adds that spending at least 30 minutes outside in direct sunlight is ideal, but a lightbox is a good alternative if it has the current amount of lux, which is a measurement of light emissions.
Outside of light therapy, if the situation requires it, there are other options like therapy and medications to help overcome temporary depression.
Dealing with SAD is common and very treatable. If someone is feeling depressed regularly during winter, it may be worth taking a moment to visit the Center for Health and Counseling to seek help.