CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - When we turn the clocks back, most people adjust to the seasonal change of fewer hours of sunlight with ease while others might experience a set of symptoms.
It's called Seasonal Affective Disorder, and symptoms of it commonly emerge as we spend less time outside.
Debbie Petitpain with the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics says at least 4 to 6 percent of Americans experience SAD also known as the winter blues.
While SAD usually starts in young adulthood, some children and teens can develop the disorder.
“They don’t know what causes SAD but they do know there’s lower levels of serotonin in the brain during the winter,” Petitpain says.
She says there are several signs you or your child might be dealing with this seasonal disorder.
In addition to what might seem like moodiness and sadness some people also experience unexplainable tiredness an increased appetite and loss of interest in things that are normally enjoyable.
They also have a hard time concentrating specifically in school. “There are certain things you can do to get your serotonin levels up like exercise it can be a daily walk getting a little exposure to sunlight and vitamin D,” Petitpain says. Getting sunlight for short periods of time during the day can increase your serotonin and vitamin D levels.
She says certain foods can also boost serotonin. “Dark leafy veggies and nuts and seeds like sunflower seeds will give you an extra boost. If you can get moving and out in the sun and eat a balanced meal you might fell better all on your own,” Petitpain says.
Petitpain says light therapy can make a big difference for children with Seasonal Affective Disorder.
In addition to light therapy, some patients might need medication, psychotherapy or both depending on the severity of the depression.
She says if you think you or your child is dealing with the seasonal blues its always good to talk to your doctor.