A Sad Side to Fall

by Elie Nowlis

indexFor most people, fall means beautiful leaves, sweater weather, and caramel apples. But for people with seasonal affective disorder (SAD), it is a very different experience.
“Fall “f***ing sucks,” said sophomore Zach Bender-Kokx. Zach “started hating Halloween” in 6th grade. He felt unmotivated and down.
“You wouldn’t even know why,” he said.
Zach suffers from SAD and the symptoms associated with it. These include a loss of energy, loss of interest in social interactions and even significant weight gain. Symptoms can also include the tendency to sleep a lot more than usual, according to the Center for Addiction and Mental Health at the University of Texas.
The decreased sunlight in fall and winter months is thought to cause SAD. Less sunlight means your brain produces less serotonin, a drug that regulates mood. This leads to depression or rapid mood changes.
SAD affects about 6% of Americans on average, and up to 20% in Northern states.
It typically starts in adolescence.
Thomas* first found out he has seasonal effective disorder when his sister developed anorexia.
“We had to go to family therapy… And I didn’t speak much.” Before starting treatments Thomas would suddenly get sad and “feel like I don’t do much with my life.”
Although SAD can drastically affect one’s life, there are treatments to temper the effects. Symptoms have been shown to lessen by being outside and soaking up as much natural light as possible, as well as eating a balanced diet. If these “natural” remedies just aren’t enough, a doctor can prescribe an antidepressant called Bupropian XL.
Another possibility is phototherapy. The treatments consist of sitting near a box that gives off artificial light. This light mimics natural outdoor light and has been proven effective to lessen seasonal affective disorder.
These treatments are very personalized and depend on how SAD affects each individual. While Thomas takes antidepressants and uses a Vitamin D light box, Zach has opted for no treatment. Since starting treatment Thomas says that SAD “doesn’t affect my life as much anymore.” He would strongly urge anyone who thinks they may have SAD to talk to someone about it. It really does help.

*Names have been changed to remain anonymous

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