Winter woes: students face depression

February is usually a month for receiving candy hearts, roses, boxes of chocolates and snowfall.

It is 14 degrees outside with a wind-chill factor of -14 degrees.

The idea of venturing outside, leaving warm and cozy rooms, is incomprehensible to some. Do these snowbound hermits have the winter blues or could it be something more serious?

While some bask in the slush and snow, others dread the winter because of the effect the dismal weather has on their attitudes and moods. These people, who can be categorized as the farthest things from snow bunnies, may simply be expressing their opinions about the seasons, or they may have Seasonal Affective Disorder, also known as SAD.

The disorder is a type of depression that occurs because of the reduction of natural light or, in other words, because the days become shorter. SAD is more prevalent in areas that have only a few hours of sunlight a day, such as areas in the Arctic Circle.

Seasonal changes in lighting and temperature play a key role in the physiological changes of the human body. Some people are more affected by these changes than others, doctors say. Symptoms associated with SAD include energy loss, mood changes, lack of sleep, anxiety, irritability, sadness, lack of creativity, little control over appetite or weight, concentration problems, lack of interaction in a social atmosphere and lack of enthusiasm about the future.

The winter makes me lazy, and I want to stay in more, freshman Ben Stein said.

Dr. Diane DePalma, the director of GW’s Counseling Center, offered some suggestions for beating the winter doldrums.

Keep rooms bright, allowing for lots of light, DePalma said. Pay attention to keeping a balanced schedule. Procrastination leads to sluggishness Try to allow for some kind of social time with friends after studying. Keeping a schedule that allows for physical, social and academic aspects to balance should keep you optimistic.

Students can use the resources of the Counseling Center as a means to solving their mood problems.

I like snow days, but that’s when I get irritated easily, junior Seth Rosenzweig said. Winter is just not a fun time of year. All you can do here in the winter is walk through unplowed roads and get your pants wet.

But for freshman Ashley Crawford, snowdrifts still amount to a winter wonderland.

I see snow, and I smile, she said.

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