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Hudson Health Center is an on-campus facility for students' medical needs. (FILE)

Some students feel their mood change with the weather

Gray skies and slushy snow during the winter months can make anyone feel a little lower than usual, but sometimes it's more than a dreary day. 

According to Ohio University's Counseling and Psychological Services’ website, about 3 percent of the population might experience symptoms of depression during the winter. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a form of depression that varies with the changing of seasons, according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).

“If somebody has Seasonal Affective Disorder, it typically doesn’t begin to affect he or she until early fall when the days start becoming shorter and there is less opportunity to be exposed to sunlight.” Fred Weiner, the director of the counseling center, said.

Some signs of SAD are social withdrawal, low energy, hypersomnia and difficulty concentrating, according to NIMH.

To be diagnosed with SAD, one must show symptoms of major depression that coincides with seasons for at least two years, according to NIMH. Those with seasonal affective disorder may overproduce the hormone melatonin or have difficulties regulating serotonin.

According to Mental Health America, about 5 percent of the population in the U.S. experience symptoms of SAD, and 4 out of 5 individuals experiencing SAD are women.

Amira Battle, a sophomore studying marketing and management and strategic leadership, said her motivation can slip during the winter months due to the weather.

“Not a lot of people like to travel in harsh weather, and being outside, I get cold easily,” she said.

When motivation dwindles during the winter months, Battle likes to think about where she wants to see herself in a few years and how successful she would like to be, and that usually puts her back into the groove.

“I like to listen to music, and I produce music on the side,” Battle said. “I like to hang out with my family and friends and read and sleep.”

Common treatments for seasonal affective disorder are medications, psychotherapy, light therapy and getting more vitamin D, according to NIMH. Counseling and Psychological Services has light therapy available for those who need it.

Light box therapy is available at CPS for those who sign up for a time slot. Light therapy should be done within an hour of waking, and a session lasts about 30 minutes. The theory behind light box therapy is that during the winter months, sunlight is rarer, and although light therapy is artificial, it can be beneficial.

“In the Fall Semester, maybe three or four people came to use the light box,” Weiner said. “I don’t know that we haven’t had anybody coming to CPS so far this semester to reserve a time when they could utilize the light box.”

Weiner said he’s not sure why that is, or if the low numbers CPS is seeing is typical for other places that treat the disorder.

Although not a real treatment option, something that can improve moods in the winter is tanning. Jordan Driggs, the manager of Tropical Tan, said tanning makes people feel better and healthier. 

“It’s nice and warm,” Driggs said. “The sun helps a lot, even if it’s indoor.”

Driggs said with spring break approaching, there are more people coming in after winter break.

“We have a couple people who come in for the warmth of the bed, and it helps (them) feel better,” Driggs said.

The counseling center has drop-in hours from 9:45 a.m. to 3:15 p.m. every weekday for those struggling with a mental health problem.

“I think when it’s really nice out, there’s more people out and about rather than when it’s really cold,” Driggs said. “I think people are in a better mood when it’s nice outside.”


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