Each year, more than 1 million children and adolescents suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a subtype of depression, this can also be known as the “Winter Blues.” It follows a seasonal pattern, where sufferers usually experience symptoms in the winter and fall. Sometimes it is easy for parents to overlook symptoms of SAD or dismiss them as normal mood swings.
There are no known causes of SAD, however researchers believe it may have something to do with the neurochemicals in melatonin and serotonin. Melatonin regulates our sleep, in fall and winter it increases in our body because there is less sunlight. Serotonin regulates our mood and decreases in fall and winter because there is less sunlight. The combination of these 2 things and the fluctuations in our bodies be associated with depression.
Symptoms of SAD
- Becoming sad because of the shortening days
- Weight gain
- Withdrawal from social activity
- Difficulty concentrating
- Experience feelings of low self-worth and hopelessness
- Struggle with school work
If your child is showing a few of these symptoms, it doesn’t necessarily mean they have SAD. If symptoms persist for more than two weeks or they are so severe they are affecting your child’s normal routine, you should bring them in to see your pediatrician.
There are good ways to help prevent and treat SAD and symptoms can start to improve quickly.
Things you can do:
- Spend time outside every day
- Open window shades in the home
- Exercise regularly and eat a healthy diet that is low in simple carbohydrates and high in vegetables, fruit and whole grains
- Use a “dawn simulator” to gradually turn light on in the bedroom to trick your body into thinking the sunrise is earlier