With the darker nights and mornings from the changing seasons, many of our moods can be affected. With sunlight being our main source of vitamin D, we struggle to get it from food alone, which is beneficial for bone growth and energy levels, which according to research can help our resistance to physical illness.
Here, with vitamin D3 suppliers Pharma Nord Ltd, we look at seasonal affective disorder and how we can help our kids who are affected by it.
What is SAD?
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression, defined as “depression associated with late autumn and winter and thought to be caused by lack of light”. A dark cloud above our heads caused, in some way, by dark clouds! It’s said to occur when your body’s internal clock and your brain and body’s chemicals all change.
It is estimated by the NHS that roughly one in 15 UK residents will feel the effects of SAD 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.
What are the symptoms?
Do you think you, or someone close to you, is suffering from SAD, the most common symptoms to be aware of include:
- Sleep issues – normally oversleeping and struggling to stay awake
- Weakened immune system
- Increased anxiety
- Overeating – particularly carbohydrates and sweet foods
- Social issues, including withdrawal from social situations
- Loss of motivation
- Being lethargic
- A persistent low mood
- Lack of interest in activities which were previously enjoyable
SAD in children
Unfortunately, children can suffer from SAD — you may notice that their school work is slipping, they 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.
If you think your child suffers from SAD, the first port of call is to contact the doctor and make an appointment. 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.
Remember, this isn’t a behavioural problem but is in fact a brain chemistry issue. 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.
For adults, SAD is sometimes treated using light therapy in severe cases. However, there’s no detailed evidence that this works and with side effects such as headaches, it’s not always recommended 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.
For additional help, consider supplements that improve health. 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.
Dr Cindy Gellner, paediatrician, comments: “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.”
As we’re responsible carers of children, make sure we keep an eye on any changes in their behaviour. If in doubt, seek medical attention.
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