Midterms got you down? Love life falling flat? Rather than blaming it on yourself, why not blame it on the weather? More specifically, attribute your poor study habits and lackluster libido to what doctors and psychologists call “Seasonal Affective Disorder,” or SAD.
“Seasonal Affective Disorder is a type of mood disorder [that usually occurs] only during the winter,” said Bai-Yin Chen, Ph.D., a psychologist at Counseling And Psychological Services (CAPS). “They may have depression symptoms, and they can vary from person to person. Some may have reduced libido, others lack of motivation or withdrawal.”
According to CAPS, individuals suffering from SAD report symptoms similar to those of depression. Moodiness, a decrease in libido and general lethargy brought on by the dreary, inclement weather of the fall and winter months can make for sharp declines in productivity and social livelihood.
“Students who think they may have SAD should first contact CAPS,” Chen said. “We can do an assessment to see what kind of treatment would be appropriate. We can determine if we need [to prescribe] drugs or refer [them] to psychiatric services.”
According to Chen, living in California does help to combat the disorder; however, as SAD tends to affect individuals in places that endure months of dark, damp weather – something that Davis usually only experiences for a few days or weeks at a time. In spite of this, students and faculty that miss the sun enough during these few rainy moments of the year enough to succumb to SAD, can rest assured that CAPS has resources available for them.
The House, a free drop-in and phone counseling service located on campus next to the Student Housing Office, offers what it calls the “sad lamp,” a high fluorescent lamp that emulates natural sunlight.
“People get depressed when they don’t get enough sunlight,” said Patricia Lopez, a peer counselor at The House. “The sad lamps have been proven very effective.”
In addition to housing the sad lamp, The House offers a massage chair, free meditation groups on Mondays and Wednesdays from 10:30 to 11 a.m. and yoga groups on Wednesdays from noon to 1 p.m. The House and the CAPS office also offer two biofeedback machines, stress-relieving booths that measure heart rate and skin conductivity and administer exercises to regulate user breathing and heart rate.
“During the fall and winter months, mood can be affected by the environment,” said Paige Seegan, peer counselor at The House. “We [strive] to better help those having a hard time adjusting.”
Though SAD is one cause of depression symptoms, Chen cautions that students should work with their counselors or doctors to see if there are other factors behind their depression that may not be salient to them. Unemployment and academic stress are factors that contribute to a poor mood during any season.
In addition to individual counseling services, CAPS also offers group counseling and workshops. The group counseling for this fall includes support groups geared toward more general groups ,for men and women, African American women, student athletes, dealing with the stress of academics and relationships and promoting wellness. More specific counseling groups are tailored toward accommodating survivors of sexual trauma, students dealing with grief and body image concerns.
“[The groups] can be very helpful and effective, particularly for dealing with relationships,” Chen said. “But unfortunately students are not necessarily aware of them.”
ARNOLD LAU can be reached at email@example.com.