Thank You, Carrie Fisher

By Katherine Cook

Carrie Fisher QuoteOn December 27, 2016, Carrie Fisher passed away. She was best known to the world as Princess Leia from the Star Wars series. That too is how I discovered her when I was about 10 or 11 years old. Oh, how I loved that character. Not your typical princess, she was strong, witty, independent. I wanted to be like her. Years later I find it amusing how I found myself not wanting to be like Leia, but like the woman who played her.

When I was 23 almost 24 years old, after years of serious “mood swings” and a very alarming manic episode, I was diagnosed as bipolar 1. A scary diagnosis. All that I knew of bipolar disorder is what had been portrayed in the media. I had a great support system with my husband, mother, father, sister, psychiatrist, and some friends, yet I still felt very lost. Very alone. I knew no one who was “like me.” No one who really understood what being in my head felt like. So, I began searching.

In my search, I found that the woman who played the princess that I idolized so much as a child was bipolar too. Not only was she bipolar, but she wasn’t ashamed to be bipolar. She owned it. She was proud of it. She was a mental illness advocate and fought to shut down the stigmas that surround it. She had a kind of courage that gave me hope.

Coming out as a person struggling with a mental illness is not an easy thing to do. There is a huge misconception as to what it means to be bipolar, or mentally ill in any of its forms, in part due to how the media portrays it. The stigma that surrounds any mental illness certainly doesn’t help the sufferer feel comfortable seeking help or having open discussions about how it affects their life. Carrie Fisher fought for us. See, I could get up in front of thousands of people and shout the same things she did until I was blue in the face, but no one would take the time to really hear me. After all, they don’t know me. I’m just some random work at home Mom to them. But people “knew” her. They respected her, loved her character, and even loved her in a way. When she spoke, people listened. I am so thankful for the voice that she gave to people like us. Her interviews, her stories, her books, they inspired me. More importantly, they helped give me the courage to fight this thing and to live my life. She helped give me the strength to continue on and not let my diagnosis consume me.

In the days since her passing, I have seen several articles similar to this. People suffering from mental illness, not only bipolar disorder but others as well, expressing their gratitude for what she had done for them. I wonder if she knew how much she meant to us. To us, she wasn’t Princess Leia. She was Carrie Fisher, advocate, stigma fighter, mental illness warrior, and I know we will forever be thankful.

These are some of my favorite quotes from Carrie Fisher about living with a mental illness:

  • About living with a mental illness: “I am mentally ill. I can say that. I am not ashamed of that. I survived that, I’m still surviving it, but bring it on.”

“At times being bipolar can be an all-consuming challenge, requiring a lot of stamina and even more courage, so if you’re living with this illness and functioning at all, it’s something to be proud of, not ashamed of.”

“The only lesson for me, or anybody, is that you have to get help. It’s not a neat illness. It doesn’t go away.”

“Bipolar disorder can be a great teacher. It’s a challenge, but it can set you up to be able to do almost anything else in your life.”

  • Her advice to people struggling with mental illness who are afraid to pursue their dreams: “Stay afraid, but do it anyway. What’s important is the action. You don’t have to wait to be confident. Just do it and eventually the confidence will follow.”
  • On not being ashamed: “I’ve learned to celebrate my life, to embrace it. If I have the problems, the problems don’t have me. They’re not something I’m ashamed of.”

“I don’t want to be caught… ashamed of anything. And because someone who has bipolar doesn’t just have bipolar, they have bipolar, and they have a life and a job and a kid and a hat and parents, so it’s not your overriding identity, it’s just something that you have, but not the only thing – even if it is quite a big thing.”

  • On being an advocate: “We have been given a challenging illness, and there is no other option than to meet those challenges. Think of it as an opportunity to be heroic – not ‘I survived living in Mosul during an attack’ heroic, but an emotional survival. An opportunity to be a good example to others who might share our disorder.”

If you or someone you know is suffering from a mental illness, or maybe just need some extra guidance, please know there is no shame in seeking help. With the right support and treatment, we can live fulfilling lives. Stay strong, stay brave, you got this.

 

Katherine Cook is a work at home Mother of three amazing boys. She enjoys her work blogging for various types of businesses. Katherine was diagnosed as bipolar 1 around nine years ago and has recently started sharing her journey and struggles with others in hopes of helping to end the stigma surrounding mental illness.

 

 

 

 

 

Bipolar Disorder in Teens and Young Adults

If you know of a teen that seems to go through intense mood changes, then he or she might be displaying symptoms of bipolar disorder.

Bipolar Disorder in Teens and Young Adults

It’s often the case that young people afflicted with bipolar disorder will throw off signals to that effect. They may act unusually goofy, irritable, angry or overly excited on occasion. After that, they might show signs of extreme depression.

It’s important at that point to get a diagnosis from a qualified medical professional.

What is Bipolar Disorder?

Bipolar disorder is a mental illness. It’s often characterized as “manic-depressive illness.” Young people who have bipolar disorder will often go through significant mood swings. On some occasions, they’re overly enthusiastic, have tremendous amounts of energy and don’t need to sleep much. On other occasions, they’re noticeably sad.

The irritable or overly active side of the behavior change is called “mania.” The sad side of the behavior change is called “depression.”

Keep in mind that bipolar disorder often strikes people in their teenage years.

“Bipolar disorder usually starts between 15 and 30 years of age,” according to WebMD. “It’s more prevalent in those teens who have a family history of the mood disorder.”

For young people, the illness can cause them to perform poorly in school. Even worse, some teenagers who have bipolar disorder attempt suicide, according to Everyday Health Media, LLC.

How is Bipolar Disorder Different in Young People than it is in Adults?

When bipolar disorder manifests itself in young people, it’s called an early-onset bipolar disorder. Sadly, that can be a more severe onset of the mental illness than when it starts in older people.
Keep in mind also that kids with bipolar disorder may exhibit mood swings more frequently than their older counterparts.

The Causes of Bipolar Disorder

There are several potential causes of bipolar disorder. Here are some of the most widely known:
Genes – Bipolar disorder can run in families. Teenagers who have a parent with the disorder are more likely to get it than those who don’t, according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).
Brain structure and functioning – The NIMH also reports that magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and positron emission tomography (PET) tests show that people with bipolar disorder have brains that differ from the brains of healthy people.
Anxiety disorders – It’s also possible that anxiety disorders can lead to the development of bipolar disorder, according to the NIMH.

However, it should be noted that the causes of bipolar disorder aren’t always clear. The research, as of this writing, is ongoing.

Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder

Kids who have bipolar disorder often go through mood swings, called “mood episodes.” They’ll experience manic episodes, depressive (sad) episodes, and a mixture of the two. Teenagers are more likely to experience mixed episodes than older people.

Mood episodes often last a week or two. During those episodes, the symptoms go on for most of the day.

The mood episodes are also very intense. The observed behavior will fall well outside of the typical mood swings exhibited by young people who don’t have the disorder.

Here are some of the symptoms of a manic episode in a teen:
• Irritability
• Silly behavior
• Speed talking
• Sleep problems
• Frequent talk about sex
• Risky behavior

Here are some of the symptoms of a depressive episode in a teen:
• Sadness
• Feelings of guilt and worthlessness
• Suicidal thoughts
• Excessive complaining
• Sleep disorders
• Eating disorders
• A noticeable lack of energy

Problems Associated with Bipolar Disorder in Young People

As if the above noted problems weren’t bad enough, there are other problems that young people experience as a result of their bipolar disorder. Here are several of them:
Substance abuse – Sometimes bipolar teens will take drugs or resort to drinking as a coping mechanism.
Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) – It’s often the case that young people afflicted with bipolar disorder have trouble staying focused.
Anxiety disorders – Sometimes, kids who have bipolar disorder also exhibit one or more types of anxiety disorders.
Academic issues – It’s also often the case that bipolar disorder prevents young people from reaching their potential in school

Treatment for Bipolar Disorder

Unfortunately, there is no cure for bipolar disorder. However, there are some treatments that can help control the symptoms.
Medication – Sometimes, medication can help alleviate the symptoms. It should be noted, though, that different teenagers respond to medication in different ways. In short, it’s sometimes necessary to try different types of medication before finding the right one. If you’re the parent or guardian of a teen who’s taking medication for bipolar disorder, be certain to tell your physician about any adverse side effects that you’re noticing.
Therapy – Sometimes, “talk” therapy helps young people deal with the symptoms of bipolar disorder. That’s a type of psychotherapy that helps teenagers manage their schedules. It can also help them develop a better social life as well.

How Does Treatment Affect Teenagers?

In some cases, a teen’s bipolar disorder will change following a prescribed treatment. When that happens, it’s important that the treatment changes as well. It may be time for a different medication or possible adjustments to the dosage.
Sometimes, treatment takes a while. However, sticking with it for the long haul is the recipe for success when it comes to working with kids who have bipolar disorder.

Parents can help by keeping a chart of their teen’s moods and sleep patterns. This “daily life chart” or “mood chart” can enable parents to better track the disorder. It will also aide a physician in determining whether or not the prescribed treatment is working.

How Can You Help Your Teen?

If you think that your teen might have bipolar disorder, it’s important to make an appointment with a doctor to get the proper diagnosis. If it turns out that he or she does have the disorder, then talk about possible treatment options.

Here are some basic pointers if your teen does have the disorder:
• Encourage the teen to talk and be sure to listen
• Understand that mood episodes are a part of the disorder
• Practice lots of patience
• Have fun with your teen and help him or her to have fun with others
• Help your teen understand that treatment can help

Bipolar disorder is a mental health illness that not only afflicts adults, but teenagers as well. Even though there’s no cure for it, there is treatment that can help with the symptoms. It’s important that those who are entrusted with the care of kids who have bipolar disorder exercise proper encouragement and patience while working with the teenagers.

The ABCs of Children’s Mental Health

Mental Health Resources

Here are some great resources to help you understand the ABC’s of mental health (photo credit: BigStockPhoto.com)

May is Children’s Mental Health Month which is a great time to talk about where parents can find more information about the mental health conditions their adolescents may be struggling with. While there is no substitute for the expertise and information provided by a qualified mental health practitioner, this version of the ABCs can help parents learn more about the mental health conditions commonly seen in teenagers so they have the information they need in order to know when it is time to seek help, what questions to ask, and how to ensure their child or teenager gets the mental health support and services they need.

ADHD

Bipolar Disorder

  • Bipolar Disorder in Children and Teens: A Parent’s Guide from the National Institute of Mental Health
  • Children and Teens with Bipolar Disorder from WebMD.com
  • Bipolar Disorder in Children and Teens from the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychology
  • Children and Adolescents with Bipolar Disorder from the National Alliance on Mental Illness

Bullying

Cutting and Self Harm

  • Understanding Teen Cutting and Self Injury from Parenting.org
  • Self Injury and Cutting from the Mayo Clinic
  • Self Injury in Adolescents from the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychology
  • A Silent Cry for Help: Understanding Self Harm from Psychology Today

Depression

Eating Disorders

Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Panic Disorder

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder in Children and Adolescents from the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychology
  • OCD in Children and Teens from the International OCD Foundation
  • Child and Adolescent OCD from the National Alliance on Mental Illness
  • OCD in Teens from Beyond OCD

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

Suicide Prevention

  • Society for the Prevention of Teen Suicide website
  • Preventing Youth Suicide – Tips for Parents and Educators from the National Association of School Psychologists
  • Teen Suicide is Preventable from the American Psychological Association
  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – Available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year at 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
Related Articles:

What Parents Need to Know About Seasonal Affective Disorder

Seasonal Affective Disorder

Do you know if your teen suffers from Seasonal Affective Disorder? (photo Credit: BigStockPhoto.com)

There is something a little sad about the end of summer for all of us, but for people with Seasonal Affective Disorder(SAD), the changing seasons can cause episodes of deep depression that can impact relationships and quality of life.  For parents, it is important to understand what this disorder is, how to recognize it, and what to do to get your child the help they need to make it manageable.

Although this condition is more prevalent in people over 20, it can also affect children and teens.  Because of the seasonal nature of the disorder, it can be difficult to diagnose.  It may be written off as normal moodiness or even misdiagnosed as bipolar disorder.  While it looks like depression when it is affecting the person, the seasonal cycle it follows can make it hard to definitively diagnose.  It can also make it difficult to see it for what it is, a mental illness, rather than as bad behavior or acting out.  The most common form is called winter depression and it occurs during the transition from fall to winter.  However, the same symptoms can occur in the spring causing summer depression.  Some people with the condition experience a repeating pattern of one or the other each year.  While it is possible to experience both summer and winter depression, it is not necessary to have both to be diagnosed with SAD.

Causes

There is no clear indication of what causes SAD although many believe access to sunlight may be a key factor.  Increases or decreases in sunlight exposure may cause chemical imbalances or hormonal shifts in our bodies that most of us are unaware of.  Those people with SAD may be more sensitive or susceptible to these imbalances and shifts.   While still a hypothesis, this idea is supported by the fact that someone who lives in a northern state with less access to sunlight during the winter months is significantly more likely to experience SAD as someone living in a southern state with less sunlight fluctuation.  Additionally, people affected by SAD experience less symptoms when they spend winter in a place with less fluctuation.

Risk Factors

Although anyone can have this disorder, there are some risk factors that increase the likelihood of developing the condition.  These risk factors include family history, gender, location, and overall mental health.   People who have close relatives with SAD are more likely to have the condition than those who do not have family members with it.  Women are more likely to be diagnosed with the disorder than men and the farther you live from the equator, the more likely you are to develop it.  People with other mental health conditions, specifically depression and bipolar disorder, may have worsening symptoms during these times of year.

Signs and Symptoms

SAD looks just like depression but it comes and goes on a regular cycle that follows the shifting seasons.  Symptoms include fatigue, moodiness, loss of enjoyment in regular activities, lack of energy, shifts in sleeping habits or patterns, difficulty concentrating, and changes in eating habits.

How Can I Tell if My Teen is Bipolar?

bipolar teen

Do you know how to tell if your teen is bipolar? (photo credit: BigStockPhoto.com)

Mood swings are a part of life when you have a teenager living under your roof because hormonal shifts and changing moods are a normal part of adolescence.  But this leaves many parents wondering how they can tell if their teenager’s moodiness is normal or if it is a sign that they are struggling with something beyond the normal ups and downs of being a teen.  The good news is that when it comes to bipolar disorder there are some specific things that parents can watch for that help delineate normal moodiness from mental illness.

1.      Mood Swings that are Extreme

If there is one characteristic of bipolar disorder that is the most common and the easiest to spot it is the extreme nature of the person’s mood swings.  People with this disorder experience periods of manic behavior that can include intense happiness or hyper-productivity and periods of devastating depression.  These moods can shift suddenly and unlike normal teenage moodiness may not seem to correlate to the current situation.

2.       Stepping Away from Normal Life

People with bipolar disorder may retreat from their lives and their normal activities.  This retreat can look like quitting a favorite sport or giving up a long cherished hobby.  The mood swings can also be so disruptive that it is difficult to continue to participate in things in the same way they did before.  Simple things like going to school or hanging out with friends can become unmanageable.

3.       Sleeping Less or Sleeping Too Much

A significant shift in sleep pattern can be another sign of bipolar disorder.  Some people with bipolar disorder, especially if they are experiencing a manic episode, may feel like they no longer need to sleep at all.  These people will be able to function almost as if they have been sleeping even if they haven’t slept at all.   Other people, including those facing the depressive side of the disorder may feel like they need to sleep all the time, no matter how much sleep they get.

4.       Taking More Risks

Teenagers, as a rule, tend to have fewer inhibitions and be more willing to take risks than younger children or older adults.  But people with bipolar disorder can take risky behavior to the extreme.  Teenagers with the disorder may participate in very risky activities that are well beyond the normal “acting out” seen in other teens.  They may abuse alcohol or drugs, drive recklessly, or act promiscuously.

5.       Talk of Suicide

Bipolar teenagers, especially when dealing with a depressive episode, may experience thoughts of suicide and talk about suicide as the feelings of hopelessness inherent to that kind of depression overwhelm them.

If your teenager is exhibiting any of these signs, especially if they are exhibiting more than one or two, it may be time to consult a mental health provider to get them assessed and diagnosed.  Bipolar disorder can be treated and those with the condition can live healthy lives once they get a diagnosis and treatment.

 

Anger Management Tips for Teens

Everyone gets angry and anger can be a healthy emotion when it is handled appropriately.  Unfortunately, as the parent of any teenager can attest to, teenagers do not come equipped to expertly manage their anger.  They need help learning what is appropriate and what is not and guidance on how to express this emotion in a healthy constructive way.  This is where parents come in and where many of us fall down.  It is very challenging to help your child develop healthy anger management skills if you don’t have those skills yourself.  It is even harder to show teenagers why learning to master and manage their anger is important if we, as the parents, are unable to model that behavior ourselves.

For some parents, this means the first step to helping their teenager learn to manage angry emotions is to learn how to manage their own.  The good news is that anger management is a skill that can be learned at any age.  It may be more difficult for us parents to master immediately because we will be challenging past behavior patterns.  However, unless we are willing to let go of unhealthy habits and learn to effectively manage our angry emotions, how can we expect our teens to do the same.

Here are our top tips for helping teenagers (and their parents) get a handle on how to manage their anger.

1.     Anger is Neither Good Nor Bad

In many people’s minds, anger is a negative emotion and something we should suppress.  The truth is, however, that anger is simply an emotional response.  It is neither good nor bad in its own right.  What makes anger negative is how we respond to it.  It is our reaction, our behavior that is negative, not the emotion itself.  Understanding this can help everyone see that it is ok to be angry and expressing your anger is actually very health as long as it is a healthy reaction or expression.

2.     Know Your Triggers

Not everyone gets angry about the same things and one of the most important things you need in order to manage your anger effectively is to know what makes you angry.  Being able to identify a trigger as it happens makes it possible to manage your reaction before the emotion takes control and sweeps you away.

3.     Take a Lesson from Toddlers

Time outs are a great anger management technique, no matter what age you are.  The key to managing angry emotions is being able to think before we react.  Timeout makes space for us to think by removing us from the situation or person that is provoking the emotion.

4.     Try Looking In from the Outside

There are a lot of legitimate things that make us angry.  But most of us also experience angry emotions when they are not warranted.  This happens when something that isn’t real, like how we perceive something or someone, triggers our anger.  Before reacting, take a minute to try and analyze what is happening.  Ask yourself if you are angry about something that is actually happening or if you are reacting to an incorrect perception.  Taking this pause to think through the situation not only helps avoid acting on bad information, but it also gives us the time and space to choose how we want to respond rather than just reacting.

If you believe your adolescent’s anger is extreme or it’s causing a lot of difficulty with family, school, or peer relationships, please have a counselor or other mental health provider

assess them. Extreme anger could be a sign of Depression, Bipolar Disorder, or other mental health issues that can be treated.

When it Comes to Information, More is Not Always Better – Part 2

Teen Tech Week Quiz

When it comes to information, more isn’t always better, especially when it comes to our teens. (Photo credit: Anoka County Library)

In part 2 of this series, information on additional mental health conditions is covered.  Read Part 1 of the series here.

Bipolar Disorder

  • Bipolar Disorder in Children and Teens: A Parent’s Guide from the National Institute of Mental Health – Provides a great overview specific geared towards parents
  • Children and Teens with Bipolar Disorder from WebMD.com – Great section on what parents can do to help and support their bipolar teens
  • Bipolar Disorder in Children and Teens from the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychology – Gives a general overview with links to other resources
  • Children and Adolescents with Bipolar Disorder from the National Alliance on Mental Illness – Helpful overview of symptoms, treatments, side effects, and other information about this disorder

Cutting and Self Harm

  • Understanding Teen Cutting and Self Injury from Parenting.org – General information about self injury including signs, risk factors, and how to get help.
  • Self Injury and Cutting from the Mayo Clinic – Offers a definition, causes, symptoms, and information on getting help
  • Self Injury in Adolescents from the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychology – Covers the different types of behavior classified as self injury and offers information on why teens use this as a coping strategy
  • A Silent Cry for Help: Understanding Self Harm from Psychology Today – A look at self harm including symptoms, causes, and what parents can do to help if they suspect their child is cutting.

Bullying

  • StopBullying.gov from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services – Great resource for parents that provides information on how to combat the negative effects of bullying.
  • Bully-Proofing Your Kids from CNN – In-depth article examining what parents can do to help their children avoid and overcome bullying
  • How Parents, Teachers, and Kids Can Take Action to Prevent Bullying from the American Psychological Association – Provides a report with targeted sections for each group outlining what to look for and how to help prevent bullying behavior
  • Bullying: What Parents Can Do from the National Crime Prevention Council – Offers parents strategies on what to do if their child is being bullied or if their child is the bully

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder in Children and Adolescents from  the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychology – Provides a good overview of OCD in adolescents and provides links to other resources
  • OCD in Children and Teens from the International OCD Foundation – Offers parents insight in what it is like to live with OCD, an overview of treatment options, and a resource for finding help locally.
  • Child and Adolescent OCD from the National Alliance on Mental Illness – Gives parents a good overview of the most common obsessions and compulsions experienced by children and teens and discusses the effect OCD can have on the overall family
  • OCD in Teens from Beyond OCD – Offers a section of information ”Just for Teens” about this disorder that includes an overview of the disorder, a list of symptoms, information on why therapy works, and links to other resources

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

  • PTSD in Children and Teens from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs – Gives parents a comprehensive overview of what causes PTSD in children, what PTSD looks like in children, and the long term effects of trauma on children
  • PTSD isn’t Just a War Wound, Teens Suffer Too from National Public Radio – Offers anecdotal information about PTSD in teens and includes links to other resources including a recording of the story on “All Things Considered
  • Post Traumatic Stress Disorder from the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychology – Provides an overview of the disorder
  • Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in Teens from the U.S. Library of Medicine, National Institute of Health as published in the journal World Psychiatry – Article offering an in-depth and clinically detailed description of PTSD in teens including risk factors, how it is diagnosed, and different forms of treatment

Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Panic Disorder

  • What is Generalized Anxiety Disorder from the National Institute of Mental Health – Offers an overview of the disorder, the symptoms, causes, and treatment option
  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder from Teen Mental Health – Provides information on symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, risk factors, and how to help support loved ones with the disorder
  • Panic Disorder in Children and Adolescents from the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychology
  • Panic Disorder from Teen Mental Health – Provides information on symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, risk factors, and how to help support loved ones with the disorder
 

Seasonal Affective Disorder in Teens

It isn’t uncommon for people of all ages to get a little down as fall changes to winter, the days get shorter, and the temperatures drop.  In most places around the country, the long, fun, sunny days of summer are gone and the bleak, cold days of winter loom ahead for months.  But for some people, the transition from season to season can cause a type of depression that is much more serious than being bummed out that summer is over.  This condition is called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).  It is a type of depression and it affects more people, of all ages, than you might think.   Current estimates indicate that about 6% of people, including adults, teens, and children, have Seasonal Affective Disorder.

For parents of teenagers, it can be enough of a challenge to figure out what is natural teenage moodiness and what is a mental health concern.   When the source of the moody behavior is Seasonal Affective Disorder, it can be even more challenging because the condition is rare in children and teens.  The average age for onset of the illness is 20 and more females than males are affected.

The main thing that differentiates Seasonal Affective Disorder from depression is the seasonal pattern.  A teenager with this condition will only experience symptoms for the same few months every year.  The most common form of the disorder is winter depression which affects people as the seasons shift from fall to winter.  There is also a form of the disorder called summer depression that begins in the late spring and runs through the summer.

What Causes Seasonal Affective Disorder?

The cause of SAD is unclear but lack of access to sunlight is suspected to play a part in the disorder.  When the amount of sunlight decreases or increases, it may affect the way our body and brain produces chemicals.  People with SAD may be more sensitive to these chemical and hormonal shifts.   These theories are supported by research that shows a person inNew Hampshireis seven times more likely to have SAD than a person inFlorida.  Anecdotal evidence that people with SAD who spend the winter months in a place with more access to sunlight do not experience symptoms.

Who is at Risk for Developing SAD?

While anyone can get this disorder, there are some factors that increase the risk of developing it including:

  • Family history – If you have a close relative with SAD you may be more likely to develop it.
  • Gender – More women have been diagnosed with the disorder than men.
  • Location – People who live far from the equator, either north or south, are more likely to have SAD.
  • Mental Health – Those people with depression or bipolar disorder may find that their symptoms are worse depending on the season.

What are the Signs and Symptoms?

The signs and symptoms of SAD are the same as those for depression but are only experienced during a specific season.  These symptoms include:

  • Fatigue
  • Mood changes
  • Loss of enjoyment in activities, socializing, and pastimes
  • Lack of energy
  • Changes in sleep patterns
  • Problems with concentration
  • Changes in eating habits that includes craving high sugar foods

 How is it Treated?

There are several ways to treat SAD in teenagers.  The first type of treatment involves increasing the person’s exposure to full spectrum lights during the months when they experience symptoms.  These types of light bulbs mimic daylight and can relieve symptoms.  If simple exposure to more light isn’t sufficient to alleviate symptoms, light therapy may be used.  This approach uses special lights as well but concentrates the light in a light box or light panel.  The person with SAD sits in front of the lights for a specific amount of time each day until the seasons change again.  Psychotherapy and medication may also be used to treat teens with SAD.