Kyle Patterson, Director of Web & Multimedia

This week, I’d like to take a step outside of traditional social issues to discuss something that I feel is particularly relevant to us as the seasons change. Depression is something none of us want to think about, let alone talk about, but it’s around this time of year that we experience it most. Just after the Halloween adventures and before the holiday season officially begins; as the clocks and daylight shift to their winter states; as the days grow crisper, colder and bleaker; as the work hours grow longer and the class materials more difficult. This is when a significant number of us suffer what’s known as seasonal depression.

Seasonal affective disorder, or SAD (as the clever people who come up with these terms like to say), falls under the category of major depressive disorder with a seasonal pattern. Known to hit year-round, it most often accosts our mental frontiers in the harsher months of November through January, though is not unheard of in spring and summer months. Symptoms vary from person to person, but the average individual experiencing the fall and winter edition of the disorder can expect difficulty waking up, the need for carbs, lack of energy, inability to complete tasks, social withdrawal, pessimism, hopelessness and lack of pleasure or interest.

That’s not to say that a week of feeling blue is cause to run to the nearest therapist for help, or reason to avoid your professors for two weeks. SAD is not actually being sad, it’s a mild to major depression that tends to last weeks at minimum. It also has to be significantly recurring, with periods of stability and possibly periods of mania between each recurrence. Most professionals agree that the pattern must repeat for at least two years.

The most dangerous trait of SAD is its victims. The American Psychiatric Association (APA) classifies SAD as a specifier, a specific pattern in patients who experience major depressive episodes. These patients most often have major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder or dysthymia (a longer-term, less severe depression). These individuals, already struggling with day-to-day activities, can find their existing illness agitated by—and in many cases, increased by—seasonal depression.

This next paragraph may be difficult for some of you to read, but if you feel like you’re in a comfortable space to do so then I encourage you to continue; otherwise, skip to the next paragraph. If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, please seek help. Confiding in yourself is the first step; admit that there is a problem, whether it’s what’s causing the thoughts or the thoughts themselves. Talking to a trusted confidant is the next step. Whether that confidant is a parent, your big, your best friend in California or a professional therapist or counselor, it’s important that you move your problems outside of your head.

Luckily for many of us, the effects of seasonal depression are easier to combat than clinical depression. Something as simple as changing your light bulbs to a bright white can help on those gloomy days. Take a break just after lunch to get a walk in what winter sunlight we Clevelanders do get. Eat some extra veggies (I find carrots and ranch to be particularly helpful on my crap days), and—if you can work up the motivation—take a jog down to Starbucks. Even if none of that happens, but you still made it out of bed and to your fridge, give yourself a pat on the back before you go back to your blankets and Netflix. Above all, I’ve found the most helpful advice comes immortalized in the words of Donna Meagle and Tom Haverford: “Treat yo self!”

Kyle Patterson wishes everyone luck on their second round of exams. Battling depression for several years, he understands the difficulties that those with mental illness face daily, and encourages anyone in need of support to contact him at or visit University Counseling Services.