The Truth about SAD
We’ve put the bleak winter behind us, and the eagerly awaited sunshine is starting to make its first appearances of the year. Just as the weather begins to change, so to do people’s mood. Sunshine acts as our one of bodies most essential ingredients, helping us to grow and ultimately maintain our physical and mental health. Vitamin D increases our vitality and energy levels, which as research suggests, can help us be more resilient to physical illnesses.
Seasonal Affective Disorder: What is it?
Said to occur when your body’s internal clock and your brain and body’s chemicals all change, Seasonal affective disorder, or SAD as it is more commonly known has the official definition of, “depression associated with late autumn and winter and thought to be caused by a lack of light”.
SAD, the NHS believes, will take have an effect on 1 in 15 UK residents between September and April, with December, January and February being 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.
How do you spot SAD, in yourself or someone you know?
SAD: How do I spot it?
The most common symptoms to be aware of include the following:
- Being lethargic
- Sleep issues – normally oversleeping and struggling to stay awake
- Overeating – particularly carbohydrates and sweet foods
- Social issues, including withdrawal from social situations
- Loss of motivation
- Increased anxiety
- A persistent low mood
- Weakened immune system
- Lack of interest in activities which were previously enjoyable
Does my Child have SAD?
If you happen to notice that your child’s school work is slipping, they tend to be quite irritable and they are generally uninterested, Season Affective Disorder may potentially be a cause. Remember, your child may not be able to realise they have this condition or tell you how they are feeling.
Contacting your local GP and arranging an appointment should be you first action if you notice these symptoms. 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.
Perhaps the most important thing is that you show support – this is not a behavioural and should not be taken lightly, it is a brain-chemistry issue. 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.
There’s no evidence to suggest that the light therapy used to treat adults is effective. Similarly, the side-affect of headaches caused by the lamps means it is not suitable for children. 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.
Research in the area of vitamin D and depression is rapidly growing, with some studies highlighting a potential link between the two. It certainly appears to offer an alternative and provides further support. Vitamin D is vital for general health including immunity, muscle function and bone density.
Dr Cindy Gellner, a specialised paediatrician has advised parents and guardians to: “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.”
The weather can have a detrimental impact on our children, therefore we must make sure that we are monitoring them as best we can. If you have any concerns, it is better to be safe than sorry, so take the time and visit your doctor.