Seasonal Affective Disorder - What is it and does your child with ADHD have it?

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Seasonal Affective Disorder is a type of depression that comes and goes with the seasons  typically starting in the late fall and early winter and going away during the spring and summer. I have not been diagnosed with SAD, however, I do have some of the symptoms as many people have.

Symptoms of the Winter Pattern of SAD include:

  • Having low energy

  • Hypersomnia

  • Overeating

  • Weight gain

  • Craving for carbohydrates

  • Social withdrawal (feel like “hibernating”)

Research has not found any specific cause although there are some biological clues:

 

  • People with SAD may have trouble regulating one of the key neurotransmitters involved in mood, serotonin. One study found that people with SAD have 5 percent more serotonin transporter protein in winter months than summer months.

  • People with SAD may overproduce the hormone melatonin. Darkness increases production of melatonin, which regulates sleep. As winter days become shorter, melatonin production increases, leaving people with SAD to feel sleepier and more lethargic, often with delayed circadian rhythms.

  • People with SAD also may produce less Vitamin D. Vitamin D is believed to play a role in serotonin activity.  Lack of sunshine means less Vitamin D there is for our bodies to absorb.  

I have found that I love light so whenever it’s daytime, I must have blinds open and the sun shining in.  I’m blessed to live in Denver, CO where there are 300 days of sunshine recorded :)


 

Natural Treatment for SAD:

  1. Light Box - 60-80% of people with SAD have found significant relief, but they must keep it up all winter, otherwise the symptoms return.  15-30 minutes a day seems to be the sweet spot for improvement of symptoms.

  2. Exercise - 30 minutes a day of walking for you and playing outside for 30 minutes for your child may help decrease symptoms.

  3. Have your doctor check your child’s Vitamin D levels.  Many times a deficiency can contribute to SAD.

  4. Diffuse essential oils, like citrus oils which can be very uplifting. 

It’s important to keep you and your child’s nutrition up as well.  Here are the top 6 things to be incorporating in your diet and the diet of your children.

  1. Omega 3 Fatty Acids

  2. Berries

  3. Bananas

  4. Limit sugar

  5. Lean Proteins

  6. Dark Chocolate

 

One thing is important to remember.  You are not alone.  Seek professional help whenever you notice that you or your child are struggling with depression.