Feature News

Staying on top of Seasonal Affective Disorder

Mar 15, 2022

As the colorful leaves of fall come off the trees, winter greets us with cold weather, grey days and seasonal affective disorder, also known as SAD. While seasonal affective disorder impacts adults of a wide range of ages, college students and young adults are at a higher risk due to the stresses that come with college life.

“Seasonal affective disorder is a type of depressive disorder when there are significant mood changes with a seasonal pattern. Some people may start to feel sad or not like their usual selves when the days get shorter in the fall and winter,” explained Nicole Musni, director of counseling in the Dyson Wellness Center. “In some cases, these mood changes are more serious and can affect how a person feels, thinks and acts.”

With college-age students being at a higher risk, it is important to know the symptoms of seasonal affective disorder. Symptoms include but are not limited to feeling sad or very low for an extended period, social withdrawal, appetite changes, sleep difficulties, irritability, low energy and difficulty concentrating. Some students can experience it without realizing how the seasonal change is affecting them.

If you find yourself experiencing these symptoms, counselors and other resources on campus are available to help you find comfort. “The Dyson Wellness Center (DWC) offers a variety of support and resources to help students manage any type of mental health concern, including seasonal affective disorder,” said Musni. “Staff can also help students connect to off-campus providers, such as psychiatrists, therapists, and support groups in the community.”

For students not feeling well enough to leave their room or dorm, North Central College also partners with TimelyCare, a telehealth service available to registered students at no cost. With virtual appointments for medical and mental health support available 24/7, students can access it whenever they need it. Services include medical advice to treat a wide range of common illnesses, TalkNow to speak to a mental health professional at any time and Scheduled Counseling with specific options to talk to a licensed counselor.

However, there is a light at the end of the tunnel regarding seasonal affective disorder. “(Students) may begin to feel better in the spring when we have more sunlight and longer daylight hours,” added Musni. While the official start to spring is still a few weeks away, students can incorporate specific daily habits into their schedules to stay healthy in the meantime. Musni recommends checking in with yourself, maintaining a regular bedtime, exercising and finding a friend to lean on when needed. “Students benefit so much when they prioritize their emotional and physical well-being,” said Musni. Other easy tips to follow include leaving your blinds open during the early hours of the day when the sun is more likely to be out and going for walks on sunnier winter days. 

If you are struggling with any of the symptoms listed above or are concerned you are not feeling like yourself, contact the Dyson Wellness Center for an appointment. Appointments can be made by calling (630) 637-5550 or visiting in-person on the second floor of Benedetti-Wehrli Stadium at 455 S. Brainard Street in Naperville.

Snow-covered Old Main