SAD – ways to help Your child this winter?
t’s hard to get all the vitamin D we need from food alone, with sunlight playing a huge part in helping us to acquire the healthy levels we need. The darker and colder days are now upon us, and the UK government have, in the past, recognised Britons exposure to a lack of sun.
In this piece, we look at how to recognise the effects of seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and how its symptoms can be managed and minimalised using vitamin D3 supplements and a number of other procedures.
The definition of seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is “depression associated with late autumn and winter and thought to be caused by lack of light”; a lowered morale and darkened mood from bad weather sounds awfully British, but SAD is much more concerning than the average disappointment when looking out the window and seeing rain! It’s said to occur when your internal clock and your brain and body’s chemicals all change.
The NHS anticipates that approximately one in 15 UK residents will be affected by SAD between September and April, with December, January and February being the worst months for what people call the ‘winter blues’. The most common age group to suffer from SAD is those between 18 and 30 years old, with females the most likely to be affected, but it can begin at any age and to any gender.
Make sure to look out to see if any of your friends or family carry any of these symptoms so you can detect them early:
- Being lethargic
- Sleep issues — normally oversleeping and struggling to stay awake
- Overeating — particularly carbohydrates and sweet foods
- Social issues, including withdrawal from social situations
- Loss of motivation
- Increased anxiety
- A persistent low mood
- Weakened immune system
- Lack of interest in activities which were previously enjoyable
It is likely for children’s schoolwork to slip and results drop if they are suffering from SAD. To make it worse, their enthusiasm is more than likely to plummet too. Remember, your child may not be able to realise they have this condition or articulate how they are feeling.
If you begin to suspect that your child has this condition, make sure to get in contact with a GP. This way, they will be able to thoroughly check your child over and rule out any other possible reasons for the symptoms they are experiencing. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence recommends that the condition should receive the same treatment as other types of depression.
Make sure you and those involve understand that this disorder is caused by nothing behaviour-related — itis merely chemical. It’s important you are supportive and non-judgmental to aid recovery. Taking a little more time with them so they feel loved as well as being patient with them is also important to the treatment, as is eating healthy and maintaining a regular sleep pattern. By looking after their lifestyle habits, you will cut their stress levels which will help to ease the pressure faced from SAD.
While adults are sometimes treated using light therapy in severe cases, there’s no detailed evidence that this works and with side effects such as headaches, it’s not always recommended for children. Instead, try to ensure that your children are outside in natural sunlight when possible. If your child is put on antidepressants, make sure you are vigilant for any changes in behaviour and keep in regular contact with your doctor.
If these efforts aren’t working, you want further support, or you want to reduce the chance of experiencing these ‘blues’, then vitamin D supplements are a great choice. Research in the area of vitamin D and depression is rapidly growing, with some studies highlighting a potential link between the two. Vitamin D is vital for general health including immunity, muscle function and bone density.
Paediatrician, Dr Cindy Gellner, has offered his advice to all to parents and guardians regarding, but it correlates to the rest of their lives too: “Take their symptoms seriously. If your child has been diagnosed with SAD, talk about their feelings as they let you, and remind them that even though things may seem impossible right now, things will be better in the spring.”
It’s important to make sure we take extra care of our kids in the winter months and be aware of any changes in their temperament. Remember, as is the case for many issues, with SAD in kids, if in doubt check it out.