Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, is a type of depression that occurs at the same time every year. For most, SAD symptoms begin when the days begin to get dark earlier and the cold weather comes. When the spring comes and the weather warms up, most SAD sufferers experience a return to normal energy levels and a mitigation of symptoms. It may be difficult to diagnose SAD in children because of different growth phases, so it may help to take your child to a doctor if SAD is suspected.
Symptoms of SAD
Most children that suffer from SAD experience fatigue and begin to sleep much more than normal through the winter months. Social lives often suffer, as children find it difficult to become enthusiastic. Grades may suffer and children may be noticeably distracted or daydream more. Children may also lose interest in things that normally interest them. There may be a tendency to overeat, specifically surrounding carbohydrates. Cases of SAD may vary in severity and all sufferers may not experience all symptoms.
It is not yet completely understood why SAD occurs, but scientists believe that there is a link between the way that some patients’ bodies respond to sunlight in triggering the release of the chemicals serotonin and melatonin. Increased levels of melatonin and decreased levels of serotonin could cause many of the symptoms associated with the disorder. The rates of SAD are much greater for people living farther from the equator.
Treating and Coping with SAD
Doctors may recommend increased light exposure or light therapy to help patients combat the causes of SAD. Depending on the symptoms and severity, doctors may recommend medications to increase serotonin levels. Doctors may also recommend talk therapy to help mitigate feelings of isolation associated with depression.