Did you know that children can suffer from SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder)? I'm embarrassed to admit that I just found this out recently, after years of writing about mental health. Seasonal Affective Disorder is a condition that can cause depression, fatigue and overeating, among other things, and it is brought on by the change of seasons. According to Winter Blues by Normal Rosenthal, M.D., a survey done by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) showed that about three percent of children suffer from SAD, with a greater incidence occurring in the last three years of high school.
I'm surprised that it hadn't occurred to me before. After all, if children could have clinical depression and other depressive disorders, why not SAD? Apparently even animals can suffer from SAD. Of course, it's worth nothing that all creatures on earth have a tendency toward SAD symptoms in the winter, but when normal functioning starts being impaired, it's time to take a closer look.
So, is there a chance that a child you know has Seasonal Affective Disorder? Well, if he starts off the school year doing well, but his grades start dropping after the holidays, it's possible. If she bounces out of bed after eight to ten hours of sleep in the summer but can barely drag herself out of bed after more than twelve hours of sleep in the winter, it's worth looking into.
SAD in children can go undiagnosed fairly easily, especially in adolescents, who are expected to be moody and have trouble getting out of bed. A few seasons may need to pass before anyone notices a seasonal pattern in behavior.
Symptoms of SAD in Children
As with diagnosing SAD in an adult, the single biggest clue is whether the symptoms are seasonal.
It's important that your child be evaluated by a qualified professional. If you think that your child has SAD, chances are good that your instincts are correct. But she still needs to see a doctor and have other possibilities eliminated first, and any treatment should be under a doctor's care, even if the treatment is purely non-drug.