Below are links with suggestions and information for dealing with normal transitional stresses of college as well as some specific problems you or your friends may be dealing with. You will also find some online resources that may be helpful. Check back from time to time, as more helpful information may be added.

Please note that nothing listed here is meant to replace professional advice or care. If you are a Drew student, counseling services can be arranged by coming to the James A. McClintock Center for Counseling and Psychological Services. The McClintock Center is located next to Health Services in Holloway Annex. During the Academic year, our office hours are Monday – Friday from 9 am-Noon and 1 pm– 5 pm. For off-campus assistance, you may access our referral list.



  • Reduced anxiety and stress
  • Greater cognitive flexibility
  • Enhanced working memory
  • Relationship satisfaction
  • Improved physical well-being, including immune functioning
  • Enhancements to self-insight, morality, intuition, and fear modulation
  • Increased information processing speed
  • Improved concentration
  • Decreased emotional reactivity
  • Reduced rumination




While experts believe most Americans do not get sufficient sleep, university students are among the most sleep deprived in the population.

  • You can’t will yourself to sleep, but you can do things to facilitate falling asleep and train yourself to fall asleep.
  • Reserve your bed (or at least being under the covers) for 2 things – sleep and sex. Do not read, browse the internet, answer texts, or watch videos while in bed.
  • Don’t let yourself toss and turn in bed for hours. If you are unable to fall asleep within a reasonable time (15-20 minutes) or when you notice that you are beginning to worry about falling asleep, get out of bed.  Leave the bedroom and engage in a quiet activity such as reading.  Return to bed only when you are sleepy.
  • Caffeine: Avoid Caffeine 4 – 6 Hours Before Bedtime. Caffeine disturbs sleep, even in people who do not subjectively experience such an effect. Individuals with insomnia are often more sensitive to mild stimulants than are normal sleepers. Caffeine is found in items such as coffee, tea, soda, chocolate, and many over-the-counter medications (e.g., Excedrin).
  • Avoid screens for 1-2 hours before bedtime. The blue light in computer, tablet and tv screens tells our pineal gland to stop producing melatonin and keeps you awake. If you can’t avoid the use of screens, utilize an app (e.g. Deluminate in the Chrome browser, f.lux for Windows, Night Light in Windows 10, Night Shift for Mac, etc.) or program to correct the screen so that you can filter out the blue light. It would be best to generally avoid brightly illumination.
  • After a hot shower or bath, your body starts to lower its temperature, triggering sleep.
  • Daily exercise of 20 – 40 minutes a day will help you sleep. It is best to exercise earlier in the day.
  • Eating:  A Light Snack at Bedtime May be Sleep Promoting.  A light bedtime snack, such a glass of warm milk, cheese, or a bowl of cereal can promote sleep.  You should avoid the following foods at bedtime: any caffeinated foods (e.g., chocolate), peanuts, beans, most raw fruits and vegetables (since they may cause gas), and high-fat foods such as potato or corn chips.  Avoid snacks in the middle of the nights since awakening may become associated with hunger.
  • Alcohol: Avoid Alcohol After Dinner. A small amount of alcohol often promotes the onset of sleep, but as alcohol is metabolized sleep becomes disturbed and fragmented. Thus, alcohol is a poor sleep aid.
  • Sleep apps from Healthline

Useful Sleep Apps from Tuck in Seattle, WA.

Some interesting facts about sleep:

  • Your body does amazing things while you sleep. Read this Huffington Post Article.
  • Sleep deprivation can have many negative consequences. The WikiJournal of Medicine has a useful info-graphic listing the problems of sleep deprivation from the Medical gallery of Mikael Häggström 2014.
  • After puberty, until about age 25 people need more sleep, often 9 – 10 hours/night.
  • Decreasing sleep increases cortisol, which increases appetite, often leading to weight gain. Sleeping promotes weight loss for most people.
  • We sleep primarily so that our brains can consolidate memory. It is difficult to learn when you are sleep deprived. (Some people believe that one goes to college in order to learn…)
  • Most everyone dreams a few times a night, though not everyone remembers their dreams.
  • Most sleeping medications lose their effectiveness fairly quickly and many can become addictive.
  • Some changes in sleep may be caused by psychological diagnoses, like depression. Make an appointment at the counseling center if you have persistent insomnia or hypersomnia (sleeping too much).

from  Rewire – Change Your Brain by Richard O’Connor, Ph.D.

Procrastination is perhaps the most familiar and universal form of self-destructive behavior. The research shows that almost everyone does it. And it seems to be becoming a greater social problem. In the 1970s, less than 5 percent of people in the U.S. felt that procrastination was a personal problem, while today that figure is between 20 and 25 percent. And no wonder—look at all the instant gratification and distractions available to us today, while whatever satisfaction we used to get from work has substantially decreased.

Procrastination may represent any or all of my self-destructive scenarios at work: misplaced rebellion, self-hate, fear of success, and so on. Like most self-destructive behavior patterns, it is often multiply determined—it serves many purposes for us at the same time. But unconscious fear of success is perhaps the most common motive.

Controlling procrastination is more like controlling eating or exercise than controlling drinking; it’s impossible to never procrastinate. For one thing, often it’s not clear which of two is the most important activity. Study for the exam right now, or eat dinner and then study? Or eat dinner, take out the garbage, walk the dog, call a friend, check Facebook, and then study? But procrastination is a habit that can gradually be replaced by the habit of not putting things off.

Rita Emmett, in The Procrastinator’s Handbook, gives us Emmett’s Law: “The dread of doing a task uses up more time and energy than doing the task itself.” Here’s O’Connor’s corollary: “It’s amazing what you can accomplish when you finally get down to work.” So my first advice for overcoming procrastination is to take a deep breath, pretend to glue your bottom to the chair, ignore distractions, and work for five minutes—only five minutes. Then take a short break but put in another five minutes after your break. Keep on with this cycle until you either are working productively or wear yourself out. The procrastinating impulse in the automatic self won’t respond to logical argument, but it may respond to a narrowing of focus. Eventually you’ll get in a groove and start feeling productive, and the impulse to procrastinate further will dwindle. If it doesn’t work today, try again tomorrow, then the next day, and so on.

If you don’t know where to start, start with what’s on top, or right in front of your nose. As you gradually get into work mode you will sort out your priorities.

A second piece of advice: While you’re sitting glued to your chair, you’re not allowed to do anything other than the task you’re there for (so if you’re working on the computer, no Internet), no matter what attractive distraction might be suggested by your automatic self or a colleague in your office. You don’t have to work on your primary task, but if you don’t, you still have to sit there for five minutes. This can be torture, but it’s great mental discipline. You’ll quickly see how easily distracted you are, but you’re forced to develop the willpower to withstand temptation. Eventually, you’ll get something constructive done.

Hold yourself to precommitments. No television (or Internet, or e-mail) until I’ve cleaned the kitchen. If I get X done, I’II reward my- self with pizza tonight; otherwise it’s peanut butter. Be sure to keep these commitments reasonable, and don’t set yourself up to fail. If you practice and get consistent at this, you can start to up the ante.

Procrastinators don’t reward themselves for finishing. An evening with friends, a special dessert—things that normal people might do to celebrate an accomplishment—these things don’t occur to procrastinators (partly because they’re never satisfied with their results). But it’s important to practice these rituals because, in our minds, the pleasure that comes with the reward comes to be associated with doing a job well. In this way, work itself becomes more satisfying.

Clutter is highly associated with procrastination. Each of those extraneous items on your desk, workspace, or computer desktop is a distraction, a reminder of something else to do. Mental clutter works the same way: If you have a set of nagging chores, just making a list will help you focus on the present. The list will contain the nagging. Every time we are distracted, we lose efficiency. You can reduce your procrastination greatly by eliminating distracting cues. Take all the items on your desk and make one pile; take everything on your computer’s desktop and put it into a single folder. You can attend to these things later.

Of course, personal computers and wireless communication have created many more temptations to procrastinate—games, Facebook updates, checking on the news. Tweets, cell phone calls, and instant messages constantly break our concentration If we really want to focus on something, we have to remove temptation and prevent interruptions. If you work on your computer, turn off your Internet browser and make it difficult to get back on. Put the phone on silent; leave it in another room. Multitasking is a myth.

Procrastinators often don’t really understand how work works. They tend to assume that other, more productive people are always motivated and ready to go. What they don’t realize is that work comes first, and motivation follows. If we can make ourselves face the task ahead of us, it’s not usually as bad as we think, and we start to feel a little encouraged and productive. Procrastinators also tend to assume that work should be easy, and if it’s not, they’re at fault. It’s an illusion leading only to self-blame to assume that those who are good at work skills always feel confident and can finish things easily. Most people who are really successful expect to run into roadblocks and hard times; that’s why they call it work, and it’s not your fault. If you keep waiting till you feel motivated and confident, you may wait a long time.


​5 Signs It’s Depression, Not Just Sadness

  1. You feel empty

    ​Sadness can certainly be a sign, but once you start experiencing an empty feeling you might be able to tell that it’s depression.

  2. You’re way more irritable than usual

    Feelings of restlessness or excessive irritability can be signs of depression.

  3. You’re getting really thin

    If you experience significant weight loss without trying, or without a diet, you could be depressed.

  4. You’re thinking about death

    ​If you find yourself focusing on death or suicide, with or without a specific plan, seek help. You may very likely be depressed.

  5. ​You’re having trouble concentrating

    ​Depression can make it harder for you to focus on tasks at hand and can also make it more difficult for you to make decisions.

    Realize that depression is treatable. If you are not in treatment, make an appointment at Counseling and Psychological Services. You can walk in or call 973-408-3398.



As members of the Drew Community, we all share the responsibility to create a climate of respect – for each other and ourselves. We can often intervene in situations where someone’s safety is being threatened by their own or someone else’s behavior. You have many opportunities for intervention before a situation progresses and becomes a crisis. We can all do our part to prevent racism, sexism, heterosexism, interpersonal violence, bullying, sexual assault, alcohol or drug poisoning.


  • Diffusion of responsibility (“Lots of people are around. Someone else will probably do something about it.”)
  • It’s unclear that there is an emergency
  • Perceived personal cost is too high
  • The perception that the prospective victim is inviting danger by being drunk, dressing provocatively, etc.
  • Similarities between the bystander and the potential offender (Someone who shares a lot in common with a potential offender will be less likely to act against them)
  • Apathetic mood
  • The bystander’s gender may influence their perception of whether it’s appropriate to get involved
  • Social norms (Intervening is easier when peers are nearby to approve of your actions)


  • ASSESS Safety and Risk – nonverbal and non-verbal cues will help you determine whether there is a problem or risky situation. E.g. if you observe someone too intoxicated to protect themselves from being taken advantage of; or if someone seems to be overpowered by another, being cut off, looking cornered; determine if there seems to be a risk of physical violence.
  • BRING in reinforcements – you don’t have to act alone. Ask friends to accompany you to intervene. Contact an CA or CRE. Call Public Safety’s 24-hour emergency number: 973-408-3379.
  • CARE for the person at risk or victim; Don’t leave someone at risk alone, get them to a safe place. If the person has been victimized help them find resources/options. Be a listening ear. Listen to their fears and concerns for safety. Pay attention to cries for help and take action. While caring for others, remember to care for yourself. Don’t try to do everything yourself, get your friend to use professional help. You can bring them to the Center for Counseling and Psychological Services or come in yourself to talk. Counseling is confidential!
  • CONFRONT the potential perpetrator if you deem it safe. Challenge sexist, homophobic, racist, or disrespectful language. Don’ t let someone take a person away when they appear unable to consent to leave because of force, intoxication, or pressure. Don’t do this alone if you don’t feel safe! Don’t argue with drunk people.


  • CHALLENGE the potential assailant before the assault happens.
  • DISTRACT either party by focusing their attention on something else.
  • SEPARATE the potential victim from the potential attacker.
  • DELEGATE to someone in a better position to help.


  • Direct Actions: Point out someone’s disrespectful behavior in a manner that will help de-escalate the situation, pull a friend aside and talk tothem alone to ensure he/she is okay, call the police
  • Indirect Action: Recommend to a bartender or party host that someone has had too much to drink, make up an excuse to help someone get away from a potential offender, and call the local authorities

Know your options. Once you’ve decided whether you want to handle the situation directly or indirectly (or a little of both), think of all the possible options for doing so. For instance, if you’ve decided to speak directly to the person displaying problematic behavior, do you want to do it right there in the moment, or take them aside later? If you want to deal with it indirectly, what resources can you access to help you handle the problem?


It takes courage to challenge negative behavior. If you think it is too uncomfortable to intervene in a dangerous situation, remember: Not intervening does the offender a favor.



  • Once dissolved in a drink, the drugs may be colorless, odorless, and tasteless.
  • Drugs take effect within 15 minutes of ingestion.
  • Never accept drinks in open containers.
  • Do not take drinks from a punch bowl.
  • Never leave drinks unattended.
  • Don’t accept drinks from strangers.
  • Watch the person preparing your drink.


Go with a friend who knows you well enough to know if you’re behaving differently and who will not be afraid to call for help


  • Much more intoxicated than your usual response to the amount of alcohol consumed
  • Extremely nauseous or dizzy
  • Loss of peripheral vision
  • Feeling of heaviness in arms and legs

Your Time To Act Is Limited!
You need medical attention immediately.
Do not go to a restroom or isolate yourself.
Tell more than one person of the condition you are experiencing.
Get to a safe place.


Get her or him immediate medical attention.
Do not leave her or him alone for any reason.
Keep her or his beverage for drug testing.


Public Safety 973-408-3379 or Morristown Memorial Hospital Hotline (973) 540-0100

Using date rape drugs in the commission of a sexual assault is a first-degree crime and constitutes Aggravated Sexual Assault.


Do you ever feel like your phone is controlling your life? Check out this article for tips on getting control back:  Smartphone Detox: How To Power Down In A Wired World


The first year at college is often a significant adjustment for students, even if they have been happy and successful in high school. Here is some timely advice from Deborah J. Cohen, Ph.D. from Psychology Today that may be helpful. Counseling and Psychological Services can help with workshops, counseling, or therapy.

by Marianne M. O’Hare, PhD,
New Jersey Licensed Psychologist

When a parent sends their child off to college for the first time, it is a transition, not only for the child, but for the parent. Whether this is your first, middle, last, or only, sending this young person to college is not the same as “going back to school.” Going to college is considered to be a rite of passage and a time of separation for both parent and child.

Separation is not always easy. It is very common, during a transition, to experience very mixed emotions. There will be times when you will feel happy and rejoice at the quietness of the house and your free time. There will also be times when the quietness becomes overwhelming. You will be delighted to become reacquainted with your spouse and, then, sad because you used to do “everything as a family.” You will feel confident that your child will adjust and do very well. Then, you will feel anxious and fearful that you might not have prepared him/her well enough for college life.

Through all these mixed up, normal emotions, you now have the opportunity to discover yourself as a different person, which is exactly what your child is in the process of doing.

It’s very important to realize that, during this time, both parent and child have the opportunity to grow, change, and develop in terms of your own identities. Children become adults and parents develop a new role in their child’s life. You and your child can develop a new adult-to-adult relationship.

In order to foster an adult relationship with your child, here are some, hopefully, helpful suggestions for parents:

  • Recognize that whatever you are feeling about his/her departure is normal. But to be overly emotional may cause your child to worry about you and make the separation more difficult.
  • Keep company with supportive, caring friends, especially those who have been there and know what you’re going through.
  • Stay healthy and happy by eating, drinking, sleeping and socializing to a “normal” degree. The time you used to spend parenting can be spent developing or pursuing other interests, activities, a hobby, or a career.
  • Avoid feeling left out or ignored. These feelings will lead to over-involvement and intrusion into your young adult’s life. There are some things that you should not know.
  • Consider and understand the feelings of your children still at home. They have also said goodbye.
  • Trust your student to make sound judgments by themselves. In order for your young adult to develop and mature, s/he must make his/her own decisions. This suggests that you need to resign your control. This means that you can listen, guide, but not pressure. This also means that you do not contact authorities, deans, and departments without your child’s knowledge.
  • Try not to overreact, even in a crisis. If you are supportive of your young adult’s ability to cope and problem solve, your adultchild will develop greater confidence in him/her self and his/her abilities. Unless it is a life-threatening situation, time and the student’s efforts may bring resolution.
  • Remember that it’s your thoughts that count. Catastrophizing, awfulizing, and tunnel vision will do you in and will not help resolve a problem. Very often, situations and problems remedy themselves in a matter of hours or days. No matter what the problem, keep in mind that there is a solution or goal. Sometimes all your student needs is a listening and empathic ear.
  • Stay in contact and connected, and plan ahead. Arrange a time for your child to call, or you to call them. If you want time with your child for a special dinner, celebration, or holiday, make your desires known and plan it ahead of time. Use e-mail. Send care packages. In order to separate, your young adult needs to know you’re there.

So, here you are, doing the best you can. Expect that this time will be like a roller-coaster ride. You and your young adult are going to have your ups and downs. But, think of the satisfaction you will have at the end of the ride. In the words of Arnold Lobel, “All’s well that ends with a good meal.”   In my words, “A good night’s sleep and things will be different in the morning.” And, most importantly, keep in mind my inexact quote of Alfred Adler, “If you want something for your child, more than the child wants it for him (her) self, if it is not attained, you, not your child, will feel sad, frustrated, and discouraged.” I wish you a calm, quiet, and fulfilling experience.


Self care is critical. Remember, fighting racism is a marathon, not a sprint. During a time of crisis, we can feel overwhelmed by the need to be urgently responding without respite.


Consent For Sexual Activity

  • Healthy sexual interactions are rooted in consent and respect.
  • Effective consent is a clear yes or no for sexual activity that is freely given.
  • Assumed consent is not consent.
  • Consent is specific.
  • Giving consent once does not mean consent stands in the future. Similarly, if a partner has given consent in the past to sexual activity, this does not apply to current or future interactions.
  • Consent can be initially given and later withdrawn. If you’re uncomfortable, you can change your mind at any time, no matter how far things have gone.
  • Consent can be fun. Consent does not have to be something that “ruins the mood.” In fact, clear and enthusiastic consent can actually enhance sexual interactions.
  •  If your partner is incapacitated by intoxication, she or he can’t give consent.

Ask for consent. Don’t assume a partner is OK with what you want to do, always ask. Be direct. If you are unsure that you have consent, ask again.


by Marianne M. O’Hare, PhD,
New Jersey Licensed Psychologist

Making the transition and adjusting to college life is not always an easy process. You have just left or will shortly leave everyone that you love and who provides you with support. You may have left lovers, pets, and good friends. You are moving into a room with strangers (who may be very different from yourself) after having your own room for maybe seventeen years. No one knows you or cares about your accomplishments. And you know no one, but you’ll try to find a group and fit in.

Some students will seem to have an easier time than others. But don’t let them fool you. Everyone is feeling some anxiety, some trepidation, and some sense of adventure. This is a time when you will become more independent and confident. This is a time when you move from being a child to being an adult. It is inevitable that you will experience ups and downs.

There are some students who may face even greater challenges than others while going through transition to college. For these students, it’s important to know that you are not alone. A number of students come to Drew with a history of mental health concerns and/or are currently on psychotropic medication. Today, because of the advancement of psychotropic medications, students who come to college after months and even years of psychiatric assistance and have had difficulties with depression, bipolar disorder, substance abuse, traumatic childhoods, and eating disorders, to name a few, attend and successfully complete college.

Because we know that this can be a time of turmoil and adjustment, it can potentially lead to emotional and psychological issues, Counseling and Psychological Services is here to provide you with support services intended to help you reach your personal, social, and academic goals. Through individual counseling and group programs, we hope to help you deal with your concerns, understand yourself, explore alternatives, make decisions, and cope with problems.

Counseling and Psychological Services is technically a “short term” facility (that means time-limited). However, we can provide limited support for all Drew students. In addition, we recommend the following:

  • If you are currently being treated by a psychiatrist, psychologist, or other mental health professional, continue with that relationship if it is reasonably possible. Make sure you are discussing the stresses related to leaving home and adjustment to college life.
  • Arrange a time and dates when you will be able to meet with your mental health professional, especially during the first semester. Plan to have phone sessions or, at least periodic “check-ins” if meeting face-to-face is not possible. Have a treatment plan.
  • Be sure to take your medication as prescribed. Be sure to have your psychiatrist monitor it and beware of the interaction effects of alcohol and other drugs (or food).
  • Be sure to keep a regular schedule, receiving adequate sleep and proper nutrition. Exercise is also a great antidepressant and stress reliever.
  • Stay in contact with your family and/or other support system. Try to develop a good support on campus and join activities.
  • Get to know your RAs and OA siblings. If you are having difficulties let them know.
  • If you are currently being helped by a mental health professional, know what you can expect to experience if you symptoms recur or intensify. Contact your mental health professional or Counseling and Psychological Services immediately.

I welcome you to Drew. It is my wish that you are all able to make a smooth and easy adjustment. However, I am more realistic than to believe that you all will. Try to be realistic also. Recognize when and if you are having difficulties, stressed or overwhelmed. Talk to someone about your feelings.  Talk to us about them. You can reach us at x3398. We are located next to Health Services in the Holloway Annex.


By Marianne O’Hare, PhD,
NJ Licensed Psychologist

Balder was the god of light in Norse mythology. He was the son of the chief god, Odin, and the goddess Frigg.

Balder was loved by all except the wicked Loki, who, jealous of his popularity, plotted his death. Balder’s mother had made all things—living and non-living—swear an oath that they would never harm her son. So there was no weapon that could hurt him.

Nevertheless, Loki cast about for a way to destroy Balder. One day he learnt that there was one plant, the mistletoe that had not sworn the oath to Frigg.

He obtained a slender branch of the tree, sharpened one of its ends, and hastened to the great hall where the gods were feasting. They were entertaining themselves by good-naturedly flinging rocks and spears at Balder, knowing full well that nothing could harm him.

Loki stole up to the blind god Hoder who also happened to be Balder’s brother and asked him why he was not hurling things at Balder like the others.

“I cannot see,” said the god.

“Throw this,” said Loki, thrusting the weapon he had made, into his hands. “I’ll guide you.”

Hoder flung the sharpened branch.

It pierced Balder, and he fell down dead.

Loki did not go unpunished. The gods chained him to rocks in a deep cavern. There, he awaits his release, for according to Norse mythology, he will eventually break free and take his revenge on the deities who had attempted to bind him for eternity.

—A story from Norse Mythology

We are not gods.  We are human.  However, like Loki, we humans experience moments of anger, frustration, resentment, annoyance, and jealousy.  And, like Loki, we might form a plan to destroy our rivals.  Also, like Loki, there are times when we do not directly express our anger and jealousy, so we get someone else (who may be blind to what is going on) to do our dirty work.

Anger, jealousy, frustration, annoyance, and resentment are human emotions.  No emotion is either right or wrong, or good or bad.  And, emotions cannot hurt anyone, except maybe the owner if the feelings are allowed to fester.   It’s better to get these feelings out in the open.  Or is it?

Expressing anger (and its many variations) is a tricky business.  Anger is one emotion that, by expressing it, can cause us to feel more, not less, of it.  Anger begets more anger.  So, depending on how it is expressed, it can be dispelled or it can become rage.

Like Loki, when we are angry our thoughts are filled with retaliation and getting even because of how “unfairly” we’ve been treated.  How angry we become in a situation is influenced by the meaning we give to the event.  And, what we do with our anger (behavior or conduct) depends largely on our interpretation of the event, past experiences, and our “rules” or beliefs about our unfair treatment.  As a result, our conduct (or the behavioral expression of our angry feelings) may lead to persistent anger, violations of the rights of others, aggressive behaviors, and/or violence.

Aggressiveness, poor impulse control, and intense anger and hostility are, also, highly correlated with abuse or withdrawal from alcohol or other drugs.  If you are not thinking clearly to begin with, have a perception of being hurt or unfairly treated, adding (or withdrawing from) substances which cloud thinking can only lead to intermittent explosive behavior or loss of control of aggressive behavior.

Loki’s jealousy and rage meant plotting, loss of control, and violence.  Although punished, he still felt hurt and unfairly treated.  And, according to the legend, he continues to plan his revenge.

If your anger reactions are troublesome to you or if you think your angry feelings can break free in hopes of getting revenge, please contact Counseling and Psychological Services.  You can learn to understand your anger and harness it so that it can serve you constructively, not destructively.

Seasonal Affective Disorder, sometimes called winter blues, is a biologically based disturbance of mood that affects up to 5 million people in the northeastern United States. Common symptoms include increased sleep, increased appetite, weight gain, depressed mood, and low energy. It does not seem to be connected to the cold, but rather to the intensity of the light in the winter sky at northern latitudes.

You can do a trial of light therapy for SAD at the Counseling Center.

What is Seasonal Affective Disorder?

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a form of depression with symptoms that occur during the winter months and usually subside during the spring and summer months. The main age of onset of SAD is between 18 and 30 years of age. The irregular sleep/wake schedule of most college students may exacerbate SAD because students may sleep very late and spend less time in daylight than most people.

What causes SAD is a topic of ongoing research. What is known is that it has something to do with the amount of sunlight you receive. As seasons change, there is a shift in our “biological internal clocks” or circadian rhythm, due partly to these changes in sunlight patterns. This can cause our biological clocks to be out of “step” with our daily schedules. In addition, Melatonin, a sleep-related hormone secreted by the pineal gland in the brain, has been linked to SAD. This hormone, which may cause symptoms of depression, is produced at increased levels in the dark. Therefore, when the days are shorter and darker the production of this hormone increases.



  • Depression:misery, guilt, loss of self-esteem, hopelessness, despair, and apathy
  • Anxiety: tension and inability to tolerate stress
  • Mood changes: extremes of mood and, in some, periods of mania in spring and summer
  • Sleep problems: desire to oversleep and difficulty staying awake or, sometimes, disturbed sleep and early morning waking
  • Lethargy: feeling of fatigue and inability to carry out normal routine
  • Overeating: craving for starchy and sweet foods resulting in weight gain
  • Social problems: irritability and desire to avoid social contact
  • Sexual problems: loss of libido and decreased interest in physical contact



  • Light therapy: Consists of sitting in front of a specially-designed lightbox that provides very bright light into your eyes. Approximately thirty minutes in front of a 10,000 lux light source shortly after awakening is effective for most people. Recent research has found similar effects with a specific frequency of blue light, which need not be quite as bright.
  • Medication: A doctor can prescribe an antidepressant in combination with light therapy, or as an alternative to light therapy.
  • Negative ion therapy: Negative ions have been shown to have a positive effect on SAD. You can purchase ion generators, or even find lightboxes that have built-in ion generators. Most people have the ion generator near their bed so they could treat themselves with this while they sleep.
  • Psychotherapy: Therapy may help identify and modify negative thoughts and behaviors, or sources of stress that may play a role in bringing about signs and symptoms of SAD.
  • Dawn Simulators: These are alarm clocks that simulate a sunrise by turning on a dim light about 1/2 hour before the audio alarm, gradually brightening it. Your brain registers the increasing light even with your eyes closed. People find waking in the winter much easier with a device like this. While not as powerful as light therapy, this can provide some additional help.


When used correctly, light therapy can help to alleviate fatigue and lethargy, and provide some relief for depression, during the shorter days of fall, winter, and into spring. Relief from depression may be gotten by spending 30 or more minutes outside in the sun every day because the effect of sun light registering on the brain through the eyes boosts mood. Though this may help many people, the sunlight in winter may not be bright enough to ease symptoms, so artificial light therapy might help depression.


Fall and winter seasons are characterized by a reduced amount of daylight. Research indicates that light affects the receptors in our brain that produce serotonin, which in turn affects people’s mood. Light therapy has been shown to be effective in up to 85 percent of diagnosed cases. A research review commissioned by the American Psychiatric Association in Washington, D.C., concluded that as little as 30 minutes of light therapy 3 or 4 times per week is an effective treatment of seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and other forms of depression. This review appears in the April 2005 American Journal of Psychiatry.

Studies of light therapy for depression have not been limited to SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder). There is promising evidence that it may be effective in non-seasonal depression as well. Light therapy also works well for bulimia, PMS, Insomnia, and chronic fatigue.


Side effects, although minimal, have been reported by a very few people. These side effects are not dangerous and are usually temporary. They can be remedied by reducing exposure time.

People occasionally report eye irritation and redness that can be alleviated by sitting farther from the lights or for shorter periods. Some people report slight nausea at the beginning of treatment. These usually subside a few hours after treatment is finished and, generally, disappear after several exposures.

The most dramatic side effect, and one that occurs infrequently, is a switch from the lethargic state to an over-active state in which one may have difficulty getting a normal amount of sleep, become restless and irritable (even reckless) and be unable to slow down, or subjectively speedy and “too high”. This state is called hypomania, when milder, and mania when more severe. People who have previously experienced these states in late spring or summer are particularly vulnerable. If this occurs, the use of lights should be reduced or terminated.

It is possible that you may become depressed during a cold or viral infection. Light therapy could at this time cause irritation. However, soon after the infection or virus has cleared up, the positive effects of the light will return.


If you have an eye or skin condition which is affected by bright light you should consult a doctor before embarking on light therapy. Do not undergo the bright light treatment if you are suffering from disorders such as:

  • Glaucoma
  • Cataracts
  • Retinal detachment
  • Retinopathy
  • Macular degeneration
  • Retinitis pigmentosa


  • hypertension
  • diabetes
  • Lupus Erythematodes
  • any history of eye disease in the family


Those who have received partial benefit from antidepressants often begin light therapy without changing drug dose. Some people find a combination of light and drug treatment to be most effective.

However, some antidepressant drugs, the tricyclics (imipramine, nortriptyline, desipramine, amitriptyline), as well as lithium, St. John’s Wort, and melatonin, are known or suspected to be “photosensitizers”, i.e., they may interact with the effect of light in the retina of the eyes. Users of antidepressant or other drugs should therefore check with their physician or ophthalmologist (eye specialist) before commencing light treatment.

Other Ways To Help Reduce SAD Symptoms

  • Educate yourself and gain social support
  • Increase amount of daily light exposure
  • Allow natural light to permeate your home and working environment
  • Spend time near windows if possible
  • When you are outside refrain from using sunglasses if medically appropriate
  • Exercise regularly
  • Maintain a regular sleeping schedule
  • Record a log of your energy, mood, activities, sleep, appetite, and weight
  • Avoid if possible major life changes or stress during fall and winter months
  • Schedule sunny vacations during winter months


  • tetracycline
  • tricyclics
  • antiarrhythmic medications
  • antimalarial drugs
  • antirheumatic drugs
  • psoralen medications
  • diuretics
  • melatonin (not to be used concurrently with Light Therapy)
  • sulfonamides (antibacterial medication)
  • St. John’s Wort
  • Neuroleptics


  • Schedule a consultation appointment with a C&PSs staff member at (973) 408-3398 to assess appropriate services and answer your questions
  • Your doctor’s permission may be required if you have bipolar disorder, are taking light sensitive medications, or have medical conditions such as retinal diseases, diabetes, or lupus.


  • A brief demonstration on how to use the equipment
  • Scheduled appointments during office hours (9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday)

Please sign our release form before using the light. Thank you.


There are many commercial products for light treatment. Older devices use flourescent lights, newer ones use LED’s and are less expensive. If you attempt to build your own using flourescent bulbs, make sure that you use an plastic diffuser in front of it that will filter out the dangerous UV light that could damage your eyes. Your eyes should receive 10,000 lux for optimal treatment. Lower light levels require longer exposure periods. There is some newere research that suggests you can use much lower intensities of specific frequencies of blue light.

Remember the intensity of the light depends on how close it is to your eyes. If the treatment device delivers 10,000 lux at 12 inches, it will only deliver 2,500 at 24 inches. In other words, to receive the equivalent light you would in 30 minutes at 12 inches you would need 2 hours at 24 inches. (Intensity is proportionate to the inverse of the distance-squared.) If a device claims to deliver 10,000 lux – find out at what distance. Better light boxes will deliver 10,000 lux at 18 inches or more. Cheaper devices require the device to be much closer, which may require some tricky placement.

More recently, research has indicated that it is a certain part of the blue light spectrum that is necessary to reset our circadian rhythms. The blue light does not need to be quite as bright and can be equally effective. Blue LED modules may be excellent choices since they do not create the dangerous ultraviolet light, use less power, and may be more comfortable.

Examples of SAD treatment device are given below. These are not meant as endorsements, just examples of what you can find.




Revised 12/13/2014