The days are growing shorter and the weather is cooling down.
Learn how to recognize signs of Seasonal Affective Disorder in your teen and find out what you can do to help.
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is most common in adults, but it can affect teens and young people too. Also known as the winter blues, this seasonal mood disorder ranges from mild to debilitating. Find out how SAD can affect your teen and what you can do about it.
Understanding your teen’s risk factors for SAD can help you identify symptoms if they arise. Girls are more likely than boys to have SAD. In the U.S., SAD is more common in the northern states. As with many types of mental health issues, the risk of SAD is higher for teens who have a close relative with depression or other disorders. If your teen has any of these risk factors, pay special attention to changes in mood and behavior in the late fall and winter season.
The signs of SAD are similar to depression, but are generally experienced during the late fall and winter months. Sunlight appears to influence SAD. In moody teens, it can be difficult to pinpoint signs your child might have Seasonal Affective Disorder. Look for significant changes in mood, behavior, enthusiasm, school performance, friendships and eating habits. Teens with SAD may have trouble getting to sleep at night. It may take more than one winter season to fully understand whether or not the winter months affect your teen’s moods. Regardless of the root cause of your teen’s behavior changes or depression, the support of a doctor can help you come up with an action plan.
Kammah, a 26-year-old woman, began experiencing SAD when she was 15. She struggled in school and felt tired and nauseated. “It actually took many tests and a couple years to figure out that SAD was what was wrong with me and my doctor did extensive research on her own to figure it out because my tests always came back fine,” she says. Kammah’s doctor recommended exercise and more sunlight and the treatment continues to help her during the winter seasons. “Take it seriously,” she cautions parents. “It is a real disorder. Fight for answers about it and don't blow it off as moody teenage behavior.”
Try not to bombard your teen with a sudden doctor’s appointment. If you’re concerned about her moods or behavior, let her know that you’d like to get her help. Make sure she knows that there’s nothing wrong with her and that she’s not in trouble. Try to give her real ways to get involved with her treatment, such as letting her choose exercises to try or letting her decide ways to spend more time outside. If your teen’s doctor suggests medication or talk therapy, let your teen have input in the process, such as allowing her to select a therapist from a handful of candidates. Kammah has advice for teens experiencing SAD. “It does get better and you won't be as miserable soon, I promise.” Emphasize the light at the end of the tunnel when you encourage your teen to get involved in her own treatment.
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