Seasonal Affective Disorder in Children and Teens


It’s possible to identify the symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder in other people, and if you’re concerned for your spouse or a friend of yours, you’ll probably be pretty easily able to figure out if their problems are SAD-related. Kids and teens are another story. The trouble is that kids and teens often go through phases in development that mimic the symptoms of SAD. As teenagers go through rapid growth spurts, for example, they often feel far more tired than usual and can sleep many extra hours each day.This isn’t necessarily a symptom of SAD and it would be easy to dismiss any changes in sleep in your teen to simple developmental ups and downs.

Now, we don’t want you to go seeing SAD where it doesn’t actually exist. Don’t assume that your kid’s symptoms are the result of SAD. It’s entirely possible – it’s even most likely – that a teenager who is grumpy, antisocial, sleeps a lot, and consumes a lot of fatty, sugary carbohydrates is simply, as we say,“being a teenager.” That’s no cause for alarm.

So what’s the important distinguishing factor of SAD? The seasonal part. If you notice that your child or teenager has great grades in the spring and fall months but drops off sharply every winter, that pattern may have a basis in SAD. If you notice they’re usually very social with their friends all summer long but in winter have no inclination to spend time with other people, even their friends, that could be a problem. See if there are any patterns in your child’s behavior that correlate to the seasons. If so, that may be a good thing, since it can give an explanation for some of those ups and downs.

If you thought your child simply needed rigorous attention to get their homework done every night but find that they focus much better with light therapy, they may show the same adeptness at getting good grades in winter as they do in the warmer months. Identifying SAD can also help mood, social behavior, and learning problems. It can even change your child’s opinion of themselves. Struggling through the winter months can take a toll on a growing child’s opinion of his own intelligence, and if the winter symptoms last long enough, a child can decide that school isn’t worth the effort – even when it becomes easier in the spring.

Understanding that their troubles are seasonally related can reverse that negative opinion, and light therapy can eliminate the problem.

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