The Saint Vincent College Wellness Center recently installed a light box to provide light therapy for those suffering from winter Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). The light box contains a special light that is 20 to 30 times brighter than common indoor lighting in order to mimic the outdoors, which helps trigger vitamin D production in the skin.
Students can make an appointment with the Wellness Center or simply walk in and ask to use the light box, Kim Morrison, Wellness Center administrative assistant, said.
SAD is a type of depression connected to the changing of seasons, according to the Mayo Clinic. The disorder commonly occurs in winter and summer.
Symptoms of winter SAD include sadness, anxiety, irritability, loss of interest in usual activities, increased need for sleep, weight gain, cravings for carbohydrates and concentration problems.
By March or April, these symptoms begin to subside, and a period of remission follows.
Mayo Clinic states that the specific cause of the disorder “remains unknown.” A change in serotonin and melatonin levels as well as disruption of the human body’s circadian rhythm are suggested factors in the onset of SAD.
Ninety percent of people with SAD experience it in the winter, with symptoms occurring around November and December, explained the Saint Vincent College Wellness Center.
Northeastern colleges, USA Today says, are especially likely to have high populations of students suffering from winter SAD. Most students, however, assume that their symptoms are caused by stress, and the condition goes undiagnosed.
Different available options to help treat SAD include psychotherapy, medication, phototherapy and light therapy.
For the light therapy to be most effective, Mayo Clinic writes, the person receiving the treatment should sit close to the light box, but refrain from looking directly into the light, as doing so can cause vision problems. Instead, the light must enter indirectly through the eyes, such as in the case of reading by the light box.
Coloring books and reading materials for the therapy session are available in the Wellness Center room where the light box is kept.
Morrison stated that many students have already utilized the light box.
The Wellness Center suggests receiving treatment in the morning for the best results, but students are welcome to use the light box at any point during the day.