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Question: My 12-year-old always seems to be withdrawn and sad during the winter. How can I help her?

Answer: Your child is likely suffering from the “winter blues,” also known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Typically, the condition is diagnosed after 20 years old, but it seems that some adolescents and even younger children suffer from SAD. In fact, up to 20 percent of people could have even mild symptoms of SAD, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians. The biggest signs to watch for: Your child becomes more irritable and withdrawn as the days get shorter; she may also sleep and eat more than usual (and crave carbohydrates in particular). Medical professionals don’t know exactly what causes SAD, but there are some promising treatments for your daughter. Try increasing the amount of time she spends outdoors during daylight hours. And focus on regular physical activity and healthy eating—including plenty of proteins, fruits, and veggies. Also helpful: Vitamin D3 and fish oils rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Experts speculate that these biological therapies all act in various ways to balance brain chemistry and improve mood. You can read more at healthychildren.org, a site that is affiliated with the AAP, and search “seasonal affective disorder.”

 

Lawrence D. Rosen, M.D., is the founder of the Whole Child Center in Oradell, New Jersey, one of the first green, integrative primary care practices in the U.S.

Have a question for Dr. Rosen? 
E-mail him at drrosen@kiwimagonline.com.

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