It's discussed each year when autumn rolls around and the days become shorter: seasonal affective disorder (SAD) or seasonal depression. While it's something we think about among adults, it is also something children deal with. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, roughly three percent of children suffer from SAD, mostly occurring in students during their last three years of high school.
A student's mental health has become a more recognized issue among parents and schools as children are diagnosed with clinical depression and other depressive disorders.
How do you know if your child is suffering from seasonal affective disorder?
According to Deborah Gray, a patient expert writing for HealthCentral, you should look into several behaviors. For instance, if your child started with solid grades but has started slipping. Or if your child could jump right out of bed during the summer after a good night's rest but can now hardly drag themselves out of bed, those are good indicators. Other indicators include a change in appetite, increased anxiety and irritability, oversleeping, and difficulty concentrating.
If these behaviors become a concern, the CDC recommends screening your child screen for anxiety and depression. The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry even recommends having your healthcare provider routinely screen children for behavioral and mental health concerns so that these symptoms don't turn into other health concerns.
How can you help manage these symptoms?
The CDC says being healthy is vital for all children, especially those with depression or anxiety. Some healthy lifestyle habits that can help manage these symptoms along with proper treatment:
Healthy diet - A healthy eating plan with plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes (like peas, beans, and lentils) along with lean protein sources like nuts and seeds.
Exercise - At least sixty minutes of physical activity each day.
Sleep - The recommended amount of sleep each night, based on their age.
Relaxation - Short breaks throughout the day to practice mindfulness or relaxation techniques.
Can SAD be prevented?
According to the CDC, it is not known exactly why some children develop depression, yet others do not. Many factors, including biology and temperament, play a role, but children who have experienced trauma or stress are more likely to develop symptoms of anxiety or depression.