Seasonal Affective Disorders Essay

This essay has a total of 2357 words and 9 pages.


Seasonal Affective Disorders





It is rather common for a child’s behavior to change due to the weather or season.
Scientists have been researching this change of behavior in children for some time.
Research has found that this variation happens primarily in two of the seasons out of the
year. Other discoveries include both the symptoms of this disorder and some treatment
options to aid in controlling it. The scientists have termed this condition as
“seasonal affective disorder”. This is a very common occurrence in Alaska, the
only region of the United States of America with latitude of over sixty degrees north.

Seasonal affective disorder or SAD, as it is referred to, is a pattern of major depressive
episodes that occur and remit with changes in the seasons.1 The two types of seasonal
patterns that have been identified are the fall-onset type called winter depression; and
the spring-onset type called summer depression. Winter depression is the more common of
the two disorders, which begins in the late fall to early winter months and diminishes
during the summer months.

Children who suffer from the disorder SAD have certain symptoms that separate them from
the regular depression that is common among the general population. Almost all the
children with SAD suffer from one or more of the following symptoms during the winter
months: sadness; anxiety; and irritability. Some will show symptoms such as: fatigue,
sleeping problems, increase in appetite, headaches, and carbohydrate or junk food
cravings. There are also signs that can show problems occurring at school. These
symptoms are decline in academic achievements, loss of desire to take part in activities,
memory impairment, poor organization skills, and difficulty in writing. Children might
also show some behavioral difficulties such as: withdrawal from family and friends, crying
spells, temper tantrums, and tendency to watch too much television without being able to
recall what it was about with ease.

If these symptoms appear over a two-week period or longer during the winter months, a
child may be suffering from SAD. Occasionally parents see this change in behavior and
think that it might be their child going through puberty, and nothing more. Parents
should pay close attention to this, because it may be more than just a hormonal imbalance
in their children. During children’s puberty, their bodies are going through
changes that may cause a shift in their sleep habits, appetite, behavior, and lifestyles.
This is common, but if it is exceptionally more frequent during the winter, or only occurs
in the winter, when symptoms are more apparent, an appointment with a family physician can
assure that everything is in order with the child’s health.

Scientists have found several reasons why children are affected with the winter
depression. During the winter months, there is a decrease in the bright light, in which
people have grown accustomed to in the summer and pre-winter months. When summer
approaches, the days are longer, the sun rises earlier and the nights are shorter. As a
result of this, kids are outside more during the day and are not lacking the bright light
that the sun provides. Around September, the days start to grow shorter and the nights
become longer, and the sun is not out as long. This means that the amount of direct
bright light exposed to the children decreases. As a result of children being in school
during this time of year, what bright light that is available to them, they are not
exposed to because they are indoors for the most part of the day. Researchers have proved
that bright light such as the sun’s ultraviolet rays makes a difference in the brain
chemistry. Inside the brain, there is a gland called the pineal gland that releases a
hormone called melatonin, which can affect a person’s mood. The amount of the
melatonin hormone that is released in the brain depends on the amount of bright light a
person obtains. The more sunlight received, the less amount of melatonin is released into
the body. During the winter months, this hormone is more apparent in the body, therefore
increases the likelihood of someone being diagnosed by such an affliction. One theory
that many have contemplated is that the decrease amount of this hormone caused by the
increase of bright light means more favorable moods and functioning of children. The
location of a person can have a factor in how severe this disorder is and the length for
which it occurs. Scientists have stated that the farther away humans live from the
equator, the greater the likelihood is to be affected by, “Seasonal Affective
Disorder.” If a person is diagnosed with SAD, the closer they may live to the
equator, will affect the duration of the disease causing it to be shorter and the severity
of it, less harmful. This is because of the length of time winter is present in each of
the regions, with a greater potential of having SAD with the greater latitude from the
equator.

The best place to perform a field study to observe how the environment can affect human
behavior is in the state of Alaska. Alaska has many different types of landscape, while
also having many different types of weather. Alaska’s terrain is one of many
different areas. It can be very rugged, with many mountains covered in forest, or barren
with no sign of life, it can be rich with life and have icy rivers and streams, or it
could have hot springs and active volcanoes. Just as the terrain can be so different, so
can the weather. In Alaska, the difference between summer and winter is quite noticeable.
There is such a drastic change that the possibility of it to affect any resident’s
behavior and mood is very probable.

Many adults have suffered from a state of SAD during their adolescence, suffering many
similar symptoms, which may be reoccurring regularly. This disorder is not one that
disappears over time, but becomes chronic. Scientists have found that the earlier an
afflicted person can be treated for this disorder, the greater their chances are for it
not to recur later on in life. SAD can affect anyone, but primarily targeting women in
their twenties. Women with SAD outnumber men four to one. Usually the average age of
diagnoses is twenty-three, with a decreasing risk that comes with age. Children are also
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