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How Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) Impacts a Troubled Teen’s Mood


Your teen is becoming more lethargic and discouraged throughout the fall as winter approaches, despite his usual exuberance for the holiday season. He wants to sleep and lacks his normal zest for life. You might just chalk it up to troubled teen moods. However, he might have a health-related issue that could be more serious called seasonal affective disorder.

An Overview of Seasonal Affective Disorder

According to the website,,seasonal affective disorder usually affects people, including teens, in the fall and winter when the days become shorter. Teens become fatigued and depressed but overcome the problem in the spring when daylight increases. While experts aren’t clear on the specifics of how or why this happens, they think that the brain’s chemical production might be negatively affected.

Melatonin and serotonin, two chemicals in the brain, affect mood, energy and sleep patterns. When the balance between these two chemicals is upset, people can become depressed. Increased hours of darkness might trigger this chemical imbalance.

Symptoms of SAD

The symptoms of SAD mimic the symptoms of depression, which can include several or more of these:

  1. Mood changes – Mood changes, such as hopelessness, worthlessness, irritability, overly sensitive, prone to tears, self-criticism and similar behaviors might occur.

  2. An overall lack of enjoyment – The teen might lose interest in normal activities that he previously enjoyed. He might feel like he can’t do certain tasks like he did before, which might make him feel guilty. He might withdraw and pull away from friends and social activities.

  3. Decreased energy – He might be overly tired or suffer from unexplained fatigue.

  4. A disturbance in sleep patterns – He might not be able to wake up in the morning to get ready for school due to excessive sleep.

  5. Disrupted eating habits – He might crave carbohydrates, including sugar, breads or pastas, and overeat, which can mean lead tounwanted weight gain during the winter.

  6. An inability to focus – Someone with SAD might struggle with concentrating while studying, which could cause a drop in his grades. He might be unmotivated and make less effort in his classes.

All of these symptoms can negatively affect self-esteem, causing isolation and loneliness, especially if he doesn’t understand why he is feeling this way. SAD differs from other types of depression because it’s seasonal and improves during the spring and summer.

Treating SAD

Once a medical professional diagnoses SAD and confirms the reason for the symptoms, a doctor will prescribe one of these treatments:

  1. An increase in light exposure – A mild case of SAD might improve by simply spending more time outdoors during the winter. Specialty lightbulbs in the home can also help.

  2. Light therapy – The person sits by a special light that mimics daylight for about 45 minutes each morning, glancing at the light so that it properly absorbs into the system.

  3. Talk therapy – Just like it sounds, the person talks through their negative emotions with the help of a professional counselor or therapist.

  4. Prescription medication – Antidepressants can help regulate the body’s chemical imbalances. Advise your doctor if you are taking any other medications as these could affect a new prescription.

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