Q. Can children experience seasonal affective disorder?
A. “They definitely can,” says Deborah Serani, a Smithtown psychologist and author of “Depression and Your Child: A Guide for Parents and Caregivers.”
Seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, is a type of depression that starts about this time of year, when the clocks are set back an hour. “That’s when we’re going to start seeing it get dark at 4:30 or 5,” Serani says. It typically lasts through February, she says.
The decreased exposure to sunlight causes a decline in the level of melatonin, the chemical that helps people maintain a feeling of well-being, Serani says. Kids might slow down, experiencing a decrease in energy and an increase in fatigue. They might become irritable and have trouble concentrating. They could express sadness. Despite being tired, they might have trouble falling asleep at night, followed by a hard time getting up.
SAD is one of the most treatable forms of depression and can be addressed first holistically, Serani says. Kids can be exposed to light therapy from what’s called a light therapy device, which can be purchased online, Serani says. Cutting down on carbs and keeping to a strict sleep routine also can help. If necessary, consult a medical professional about other therapies, such as taking liquid melatonin drops, Serani says. You also might want to talk to the child’s teacher and alert him or her to the issue.
Kids who experience SAD one year are likely to experience it again each winter, Serani says.