DEAR SANDRA: The Advice Column

November 13, 2002

Dear Sandra,

I feel a little awkward writing to you, but I am hoping that you will be able to help with my problem. For the past few months I have noticed myself becoming more moody, tired, sad, and I have gained 15lbs. Is this my body’s way of saying it does not like the sedentary student life in front of a computer?

Tired and Grumpy in Quebec

Dear Tired,

It may not be school that is causing your problem. Many mental illnesses such as depression or even a physical ailment like a deficiency in Vitamin B12 may be causing your behaviour. On the other hand though, it is easy to become a little less enthusiastic about life if you are stuck inside an office or your kitchen all day studying without any outside human contact.

My first recommendation to you would be to go see a doctor, tell him your symptoms and maybe even get a full physical to rule out any deficiencies in vitamin levels, calcium, iron, etc: I need to get an injection of Vitamin B12 every week because my body does not absorb it. Before I had the shot, I was easily tired, slept a lot and I had a hard time concentrating – which doesn’t help if you are a university student trying to read boring textbooks. You could also be exhibiting some of the numerous signs of depression: withdrawal, inactivity, inability to function, easily tire, low energy level, excessive sleep, insomnia, poor or increased appetite, irritability, poor ability to concentrate, low self-esteem, emotional, suicidal ideation, self-destructive thoughts, low libido, craving for carbohydrates, skin problems, a feeling that no one understands you and body aches and pains.

Biological factors contribute to the majority of cases of depression. Neurotransmitters transmit information from one central nervous system cell to another, when neural cells lose the ability to make the proper amount of a neurotransmitter, store it properly or bind it efficiently, depression or other mood disorders may occur. Three physiological conditions that affect neurotransmitter production and can inhibit chemical are:

1. Specific diseases -. Alzheimer’s, epilepsy, MS.

2. Hormonal imbalances – It is estimated that 10-15% of all depressed patients have some form of thyroid malfunction.

3. Genetic factors – Depression and bi-polar diseases tends to run in the family, but it is not an absolute (Fanning & McKay, 2000 p. 592).

Drug therapy is available for serious cases, some people with very mild depression prefer to use herbal remedies like St. John’s Wort or alter their diets to find foods that may trigger “depressive like symptoms” in their bodies or increase their activity levels.
The most important thing is to consult with your doctor first!

Maybe all you need is to start eating right and increase your energy level. Studying from home makes it really easy to turn into a junk food addict and lead a very sedentary life. Make sure that you have some outside contacts, join a bowling league, volunteer at a shelter, ANYTHING just make sure you get out of the house often and interact with other human beings. I would be very curious to hear back from you to hear how your situation turned out, your symptoms could be related to any number of physical or mental illnesses.



Fanning, Patrick & McKay, Matthew. 2000. Family Guide to Emotional Wellness. New Harbinger Publications; CA.

Thanks to everyone for your letters and encouragement. Keep those letters coming, no question is unanswerable and confidentiality is assured.


This column is for entertainment only. Sandra is not a professional counsellor, but is an AU student who would like to give personal advice about school and life to her peers. Please forward your questions to Sandra care of