Is It Okay To Give My 2 Year Old Melatonin "Winter Blues" or Something More Serious? Recognizing Seasonal Affective Disorder

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"Winter Blues" or Something More Serious? Recognizing Seasonal Affective Disorder

Have you ever felt unusually tired or sad on a cloudy day? Do you feel irritable on gloomy days? If so, you may have pushed those feelings away and thought, “It must be the weather.” Maybe you’re right. Exposure to sunlight is associated with increased serotonin in our body, which is a neurotransmitter responsible for mood regulation. A lack of sunlight means a lack of serotonin, which can lead to depression. Sunlight also produces melatonin, a hormone responsible for regulating sleep and mood.

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that occurs cyclically and correlates with the changes of the seasons. There are two types of SAD. The most common is referred to as winter depression. These symptoms begin each year in late fall or early winter and include:

• Depression

• Social exclusion

• Increased sleep

• Lack of energy

• Carbohydrate cravings (bread, pasta, chips, candies/sweets)

• Weight gain

• Hopelessness

• Irritability

Due to the seasonal nature of SAD, the above symptoms usually begin to subside in the spring or early summer.

A second and less common form of SAD is summer depression. An individual with summer depression would start experiencing symptoms in the spring and the symptoms would stop in the fall. Symptoms include:

• Anxiety

• Decreased sleep

• Decreased appetite

• Weight loss

About 5 percent of the population suffers from seasonal affective disorder. The typical age of onset is in the early 20s, and the likelihood of developing SAD decreases with age. Women outnumber men four to one with SAD. It is currently unknown whether there is a genetic link to seasonal depression.

So how do you know if you’re experiencing the “winter blues” or if you have seasonal affective disorder? Criteria for SAD include:

• Major depressive episodes during the same season for at least two consecutive years

• Depressive symptoms cannot be caused by regular seasonal stressors such as the holidays or anniversaries of the death of a loved one.

• Symptoms must disappear cyclically during the same season for two consecutive years.

• No depressive episodes unrelated to seasonal changes

There are no medical tests that can diagnose SAD. If you think you may have seasonal depression, talk to your doctor or mental health professional.

Treatment options are available for SAD, including light therapy and antidepressants. Therapy can also help individuals recognize negative thought patterns that may be exacerbating symptoms of depression. Counseling can help individuals change these thought patterns and learn to cope with seasonal depression.

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