Students coming to Texas Tech from a warm location or returning to campus after the previous semester began with warm temperatures can endure psychological effects caused by the drop in temperatures. Entering a depressive state due to the weather is commonly known as seasonal depression.
Seasonal depression, also known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), is the psychological disorder which individuals have depression episodes during a season, commonly seen in the winter.
Justin Weaver, instructor of atmospheric science and head of the National Weather Service in Lubbock, said cities in higher latitudes and winter weather are the main factors attributed to the cause of seasonal depression.
“Seasonal Affective Disorder stems from lesser amounts of sunlight and shorter days,” Weaver said. “This especially occurs in higher latitudes like in the northern United States and Canada.”
Individuals seeking clinical psychological help for SAD have three options. These options include the Student Counseling Center, the Couple, Marriage and Family Therapy Clinic and the Psychology department clinic.
Amanda Guzman, first-year doctoral student from the Couple’s Marriage and Family therapy program, said indicators of seasonal depression in a student can come from comparing the student’s emotions during stressful times in the semester versus less stressful times.
“It’s a little more tricky for students because we have been given more layers on top of what we’re already dealing with,” Guzman said. “In terms of seasonal depression, we need to filter out some things. For college students in general, usually you get to go home during December and not worry about class. If you’re not having these extra life stressors, are you still depressed?”
If an individual cannot emotionally recognize the signs of depression at first, Guzman said an individual’s body can indicate signs of depression as well. These signs of depression include gastrointestinal issues, meaning nausea, constipation and an effect on appetite.
“Something a lot of people feel in their body when they’re depressed or anxious is that feeling in their stomach, a lot of gastrointestinal issues,” Guzman said. “Your stomach is like your second brain. Are you not having an appetite or are you constipated? You may notice when you’re feeling depressed if your stomach is feeling a little queasy, even nausea and irregular bowel movements.”
Depression can cause individuals to ignore their basic needs and lose interest in their favorite hobbies, Guzman said.
“Symptoms associated with depression is deep tiredness, deep fatigue you can feel in your muscles that takes so much more to function or get out of bed,” Guzman said. “You also no longer enjoy what you used to. This idea that what you used to find enjoyable is no longer fun and has become a chore.You don’t feel as much enjoyment from life just because depression is so deep in you. Colors are not as bright and music is not as happy.”
Keeping track of completing basic responsibilities is a way for students to recognize signs of depression, Guzman said.
“As a student, basic responsibilities may trigger you,” Guzman said. “Are you not eating three meals a day because you don’t have the energy to get out of bed? Are you isolating yourself? Are you not wanting to go to class because you don’t want to interact with others? Are you not talking to your friends or family? Do a little reflection of ‘am I ok?’”
Seeking psychological help with a therapist is one way to cope with seasonal depression. Guzman said other methods outside of therapy, such as buying a light therapy lamp that gives the same psychological effects as the sun or meal prepping and self advocacy, can help an individual during a depressive episode.
“My number one tip is seeing a therapist,” Guzman said. “Another tip is asking your doctor about light therapy lamps. If you just happen to Google them, definitely look for something that doesn’t give you UV light. You know your body and your needs. If you know you’re less likely to eat, maybe set a timer so you know when to eat. On a day you’re feeling ok, meal prep for the next few days in case you don’t have the energy to cook. Advocate asking professors and bosses for help with deadlines.”
Aside from other self-help tips, Guzman said completing one simple basic need can go a long way mentally for an individual dealing with depression.
“My biggest piece of advice is just do one thing,” Guzman said. “Taking a shower may seem like a mountain to overcome, taking your makeup off, or just washing your hands. Something incredibly small might make you feel better and help your body a little bit.”
Fearing the next cycle of seasonal depression does not have to be the case, Guzman said, but instead the time in between cycles can act as mental preparation.
“Individuals who have had this type of sadness feel this sense of time that moves towards their next cycle of seasonal depression,” Guzman said. “It can feel scary and pretty debilitating, knowing that you’re closer to your next season, but I think it can be empowering when you know it’s coming. You have the power to know how it’s going to affect your mind and body and have the power to hopefully know how you’re going to help yourself out.”