seasonal effective disorder ( SAD ) symptoms and cases in 2020
seasonal affective disorderAs winter approaches, some of us feel the “winter blues,” we are saddened by shorter days, we go to bed earlier and have a hard time getting up early on dark mornings.
That’s different from seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a term used to describe a type of depression that fits into a seasonal pattern.
Who is at risk for SAD?
SAD usually develops in a person in their early 20s, but it can occur in older children and teens. The risk of the disorder decreases as you grow older. SAD is most often diagnosed in young women, but men who have SAD may have more severe symptoms. People with a family history of SAD or those who live in northern latitudes where the hours of daylight during winter are shorter are at higher risk of developing SAD.
Symptoms of SAD
A person with SAD may:
They withdraw socially and no longer enjoy things that were fun. It’s like his batteries have run out.
They crave or are prompted to eat so-called comfort foods that contain simple carbohydrates, such as pasta, bread, and sugar. With excess unhealthy calories and few fruits and vegetables and whole grains, which promotes fatigue and increases the desire to sleep and gain weight.
Feel anxious , irritable, have trouble sleeping, or have a decreased appetite. These symptoms are more common in spring or summer SAD.
There is no known cause
Researchers have not determined precisely what causes SAD. There is some evidence that indicates an alteration in a person’s “circadian rhythm”, the body’s natural cycle for sleeping and waking. As the days get shorter, the decreasing amount of light can throw off the body’s natural clock, triggering depression.
Daylight also plays a role in the brain’s production of melatonin and serotonin. During winter, your body produces more melatonin (which encourages sleep) and less serotonin (which fights depression). Researchers don’t know why some people are more susceptible to SAD than others.
In general, SAD is a more recognized disorder in adults since many of the mental health disorders in children arise over time.
. A doctor will generally first try to determine if a child is depressed or anxious, then will observe the pattern over time. The diagnosis of SAD is confirmed only if the person meets the criteria for the diagnosis of depression and if symptoms of a seasonal pattern have been present for at least 2 years.
Treatment of SAD
Several effective treatments can help people with SAD, including:
Exercise regularly and eat a healthy diet , one low in simple carbohydrates and rich in vegetables, fruits, and whole grains.
Using a “sunrise simulator ” which gradually turns on the light in the room, tricking the body into thinking it is an early sunrise.
Take a family vacation in the dead of winter to warm sunny weather.
Light therapy – sitting for three hours a day in front of a light box or wearing a light visor that filters ultra violet rays.However, light therapy is not recommended for children. Consult with your child’s physician before considering this treatment.
If these treatments don’t work, prescription antidepressant medications can help regulate serotonin and other neurotransmitters that affect mood. However, antidepressants come with a warning on the packaging about the risk of suicidal thinking or behavior.
Parents of children taking antidepressants should keep an eye out for possible symptoms of agitation, anxiety, or insomnia and continue to see their doctor regularly.
Working together to improve
If you see symptoms of SAD in yourself or your child, take it seriously. Treating this disorder promptly and diligently can turn dark winter days into a pleasant time of bonding for your family.
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