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Seasonal Affective Disorder in Children

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Seasonal Affective Disorder in Children


What is Seasonal Affective Disorder? Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that presents itself only during a specific time of year. It is also referred to as seasonal depression. With SAD, a child usually becomes depressed during fall and winter when the days are shorter and it gets darker earlier. This disorder is brought on by the brain’s response to the seasonal changes in daylight.

Signs and Symptoms

  • Changes in mood

  • Negative thinking

  • Lack of enjoyment

  • Low energy

  • Changes in sleep

  • Changes in eating

  • Trouble concentrating

With SAD, a person notices these changes only during the time of year when there are fewer hours of daylight. As the season changes and days become longer again, their depression gets better and their usual energy returns.

How Is SAD Diagnosed?

Talk to your doctor if you think your child has SAD. Health care providers can diagnose it by asking questions and listening. A health checkup can make sure that symptoms aren't due to another condition.

When symptoms of SAD first start, parents might think that a lack of motivation, energy, and interest are due to a poor attitude. Learning about SAD can help them understand another possible reason for the changes, easing feelings of blame or impatience with their child or teen.

Parents might not know how to bring up their concerns to their child. It's best to be supportive and not judgmental. Try saying something like, "You don't seem like yourself lately — you've been so sad and grouchy and tired, and you don't seem to be having much fun or getting enough sleep. So, I've made an appointment for you to get a checkup. I want to help you to feel better and get back to doing your best and enjoying yourself again."

How Is SAD Treated?

If a child or teen is diagnosed with SAD, the doctor may recommend one or more of these treatments:

  • More Light Exposure
    For many kids and teens with SAD, simply spending more time outside during daylight hours is enough to relieve seasonal depression.

  • Light Therapy (Phototherapy)
    More troublesome symptoms may be treated with a stronger light that simulates daylight. A special lightbox or panel is placed on a tabletop or desk, and the person sits in front of it briefly every day (45 minutes or so, usually in the morning) with eyes open, glancing — not staring — occasionally at the light.

  • Talk Therapy
    Talking with a therapist helps relieve the negative thoughts and feelings associated with depression. Medicine

Doctors may prescribe medicine for some kids and teens with SAD. Antidepressant medicines help balance serotonin and other neurotransmitters that affect mood and energy.

How Parents can Help

  • Participate in your child’s treatment

  • Help your child understand SAD

  • Exercise and spending time outdoors

  • Quality time spent together

  • Patience

  • Help with homework

  • Eating healthy

  • Establishing a sleep routine

  • Take them seriously and be supportive


Campbell County Medical Group is your source for comprehensive care for your child from birth through adulthood. Our pediatric providers care for your child’s entire wellbeing, not just a current list of symptoms.

To contact the Pediatric Clinic, call 307-688-3636.

To contact the Kid Clinic, call 307-688-8700.



  • Category: Campbell County Medical Group Kid Clinic