It’s finally happened, the colder weather and darker days have arrived. Unfortunately, when the weather changes, for some people their mood does too, this is because sunshine provides us with vitamin D levels that we can sometimes struggle to find in our foods. It can enhance our vitality and energy levels, which is key to becoming more resilient to physical illnesses according to research. Plus, if you wear a hat in the colder weather, the vitamin D from the sun can’t get to your head, which can also have an impact.
In this article, I have taken a look at seasonal affective disorder in children.
What is seasonal affective disorder?
Also known as SAD, seasonal affective disorder is defined as “depression associated with late autumn and winter and thought to be caused by lack of light”. It, in some ways, is a dark cloud above our heads that can be caused by dark clouds! It’s said to occur when your body’s internal clock and your brain and body’s chemicals all change. (It’s scary that the weather can cause this, isn’t it?)
SAD isn’t uncommon – did you know that, according to the NHS, 1 in 15 people in the UK are affected between September and April. December, January and February are the worst months for what people call the ‘winter blues’. The most common age group to suffer from SAD is those between 18 and 30 years old, with females the most likely to be affected, but it can begin at any age and to any gender. (I have friends who have this condition, so I know how serious it can be.)
Not always easy to diagnose, some common symptoms to look out for are:
Loss of motivation
Weakened immune system
Lack of interest in activities which were previously enjoyable
A persistent low mood
Sleep issues – normally oversleeping and struggling to stay awake
Social issues, including withdrawal from social situations
Overeating – particularly carbohydrates and sweet foods
How can SAD affect children?
I don’t have kids myself, but I have a lot of friends who do. I also have a lovely little niece as well.
How does SAD affect kids? School work may suffer if a child is experiencing SAD, potentially impacting their future. They may also seem more irritable and less likely to want to play. Remember, your child may not be able to realise they have this condition or tell you how they are feeling.
It’s important to bear in mind that SAD is related to brain chemistry, and not just a behavioural problem. It’s important you are supportive and non-judgmental to aid recovery. Taking a little more time with them so they feel loved as well as being patient with them is also important to the treatment, as is eating healthy and maintaining a regular sleep pattern. By looking after their lifestyle habits, you will cut their stress levels which will help to ease the pressure faced from SAD.
It’s also worth considering a supplement like . Research in the area of vitamin D and depression is rapidly growing, with some studies highlighting a potential link between the two. Vitamin D is vital for general health including immunity, muscle function and bone density.
If you have any concerns about SAD and your child, then consult a GP – this way, they will be able to thoroughly check your child over and rule out any other possible reasons for the symptoms they are experiencing. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence recommends that the condition should receive the same treatment as other types of depression. is a supplement to consider as this is said to alleviate anxiety and depression.
Some adults affected by SAD do use light therapy, though its benefit hasn’t been proven and can sometimes cause headaches. Instead, try to ensure that your children are outside in natural sunlight when possible. If your child is put on antidepressants, make sure you are vigilant for any changes in behaviour and keep in regular contact with your doctor.
Offering important advice, paediatrician, Dr Cindy Gellner, states: “take their symptoms seriously. If your child has been diagnosed with SAD, talk about their feelings as they let you, and remind them that even though things may seem impossible right now, things will be better in the spring.”
Taking care of your kids is a 24/7 task, of course! But it’s important to stay extras vigilant in the winter months and take note of any possible temperament changes. Remember, as is the case for many issues, with SAD in kids, if in doubt check it out.
Who knew that the weather could be so detrimental to health?