SAD: More Than Just The Winter Blues

Seasonal Affective Disorder and Your Child

Written by Dr. John Carosso

The change of season blues

How many of you can relate to the dismay of darkness settling-in as early as 5:00 pm? I know it gets me down in the dumps. For some, however, it’s more than just feeling somewhat ‘blue’ in mood; some struggle with severe bouts of depression during this time of year, known as ‘Seasonal Affective Disorder’ (SAD). This depression differs from it’s more typical counterpart in that the onset is rather predictable, usually around September or October, and corresponds with the shortening of daylight.

How Common?

As would be expected, depends on where you live. If you’re lucky enough to live in the cold Northern regions, rates go as high as 20%, but as low as 2% in brighter climates. Oh well, guess that’s bad news for all of us here in Pennsylvania.

Kids and Teens affected too?

This is not an adult-only malady. SAD usually begins in the teen years and strikes girls four times more than boys. Interestingly, teens born in the Spring or Summer are more likely to suffer from SAD than those born in the colder months. Not sure why, but may be because of how a child is light-programmed from early-on their life.

What to do?

Well, short of moving to Florida where it’s still dark but at least it’s warm and not so cloudy, treatment involves the systematic use of light. Guess this makes sense given the problem is based in lack of light. The ‘phototherapy’ involves sitting briefly in front of box that emits intense light, or the use of a Dawn Simulator; both are quite effective as well as traditional cognitive-behavioral talk therapy, and medication.

Hope that helps

If you’re feeling down, lacking in motivation, and blah in mood, or you notice your kids being exceptionally moody or agitated during the Fall and Winter months, then please do not hesitate to get help. You can reach me at jcarosso@cpcwecare.com or call 412-372-8000. You can find out more about SAD in an article on the e-Edition of the Exponent Telegram where I was interviewed about this form of depression. Check it out at www.exponent-telegram.com

God bless.

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Dr. John Carosso

Dr. Carosso has more than 30 years of experience as a licensed Child Clinical Psychologist and Certified School Psychologist working in private, inpatient, outpatient, residential, school, and home settings. He is Clinical Director of Community Psychiatric Centers (cpcwecare.com), a licensed Behavioral Health Outpatient Clinic, and operates both the Autism Center of Pittsburgh (autismcenterofpittsburgh.com) and the Dyslexia Diagnostic and Treatment Center (dyslexiatreaters.com).

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