Sleeping More… low energy… hibernating… feeling down or blue… finding it harder to Study… craving carbs…
Sound familiar? If so, you may be dealing with the Winter Blues or Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Both are caused by gray skies and low sunlight, which is as much a part of winter at Ohio State as bowl games and Uggs. So unless you plan to transfer to USC or Florida before next quarter, read on to see what you can do to stay healthy.
Winter Blues affect 10-30% of the population – regardless of race, gender or culture – and can negatively impact your grades, job, athletic performance or your social life. There are a lot of useful things you can do to manage the Winter Blues:
- Increase your exposure to daylight, even on cloudy days
- Stress reduction
- Eat and sleep well
- Exercise, especially outside
- Avoid alcohol, which is a depressant
- Don’t waste your money on tanning beds
If these measures don’t work, or if you are experiencing more severe changes in your mood, appetite, sleep, concentration or energy levels, you may have Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).
SAD is a more serious form of depression characterized by a feeling of hopelessness or helplessness and even suicidal feelings. As with any depression, suicide is a serious risk. SAD affects 5-10% of the population in all races or cultures and may run in families. If you are having signs and symptoms of SAD, you need to get help – and luckily you can find it right here on campus!
In addition to counseling and stress management strategies, SAD is usually treated with antidepressant medication and/or bright light therapy with a 10,000-lux light box. All of these therapies are available at Counseling and Consultation Service.
Since light boxes can cause side effects like hypomania (episodes of abnormally elevated, unrestrained or irritable mood), CCS requires you to be evaluated and followed by one of our psychiatrists during therapy. Once we know that the treatment is effective and safe, many students purchase their own light box to avoid the hassle of having to come to the Younkin Success Center every morning.
Light boxes typically run in the neighborhood of $250-$300. The bulbs last 2-3 years with normal use and can be replaced for $40 or so. While that’s a lot of money up front, compared to the cost of medications it can actually be a bargain in the long run. Some insurance plans even cover the box with a written prescription, so the out-of-pocket cost may even be less.
If you do decide to purchase your own light box, be sure to watch out for advertisements touting “full spectrum” light boxes. That sounds really cool, but it isn’t actually relevant and those boxes are less than the recommended 10,000 lux strength. They may work, but they’ll require a lot more time to be effective which usually ends up being counterproductive.
We never want anyone at Ohio State to “Go Blue” (man, it hurt us to even type those words…) If you start to feel that way, be sure to contact Student Health or CCS – we are here to help!
Denise Deschenes, M.D. Richard A. Mitsak, M.D. (Ohio State Counseling and Consultation Service)
John A. Vaughn, M.D. (Ohio State Student Health Services)