Seasonal affective disorder in children

By  ,  Onlymyhealth editorial team
Feb 04, 2013

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A boy in sad mood

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a sort of phenomenal depression which follows a seasonal pattern. For instance, the victim experiences classic symptoms of depression as winter closes in and the days become shorter, but as spring approaches, the symptoms dilate and they return to normal once again. Let's specifically take a look at seasonal affective disorder in children.

Seasonal affective disorder draws out symptoms like fatigue, over-indulgence and depression.


According to a survey co-ordinated by Normal Rosenthal, M.D. - and the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) - some three per cent of children suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder and it is most prevalent in the last years of high school (ages 16-18).


Symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder


The most obvious symptom of seasonal affective disorder in children is a noticeable change in the character, mood and overall disposition of the child as winter approaches. Are they socializing with their friends as much? Have their grades in school dipped a little since the start of term in August-September? Do they seem to be suffering from fatigue? Are they joining in the family discussions at meal-times?


You will know your child better than most and should notice a chance in their general disposition. If they are normally jovial and loquacious, then look out for signs of sadness, frustration, self-criticism, sensitivity and feelings of hopelessness. Look out for feelings that seem to be out of character and don’t have any obvious reason.


There is obviously a chance they are recovering from an isolated incident in their private lives, i.e. maybe they split with their boyfriend/girlfriend or they didn’t make the school sports team. It’s important to understand how or if they recover from the apparent symptoms. If they seem to be back to their normal selves come spring time, it is possible they are a victim of SAD. A true tell-tale sign will be if their mood and disposition falls to the same levels again the following winter.


Treatment of Seasonal Affective Disorder


If you are concerned about your child’s condition, then it might be worth discussing it with a physician. There are treatments available for the different degrees of seasonal affective disorder. Getting them to speak to a doctor may be a different matter entirely, but if it is obviously affecting the quality of their life and/or grades in school, then it needs to be considered.


Treatment for Seasonal affective disorder in children usually consists of the following:

  1. Anti-depressant medication therapy helps to provide respite from depression or SAD-related symptoms. Of course, teens will need to be monitored when they are on medication.
  2. Phototherapy and daylight exposure gets them out more during the daylight hours.
  3. Counseling and talk therapy give them a chance to talk about their feelings and learn about why they are feeling down.


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