Changing Seasons, Changing Moods: Symptoms of seasonal affective disorder in teens

8423987104 9048eb9fdf z 300x200Seasonal affective disorder in teens is not something that just affects adults. In fact, it can be just as devastating to teenagers as it can be to adults, especially because most teenagers spend just as much time (if not more), inside, in artificial light, during the winter months. Without ample exposure to natural light, the body produces too much melatonin, making a person feel depressed and sluggish. But how can you tell if your teen is suffering from seasonal affective disorder? Here are some of the symptoms and what you can do to alleviate this issue:

  1. Sleepiness – One of the most common symptoms of seasonal affective disorder in teens is needing to sleep more often than during the spring, summer, and fall.
  2. Gaining weight – Most animals gain weight before the winter, in order to stay warmer, but humans do not follow this trend. If your teen gains weight as the cold, darker months set in, it may be indicative of a larger problem.
  3. Irritability and concentration problems – As with most forms of depression, SAD can seriously affect a person’s ability to function properly. It can block their ability to concentrate even on simple tasks and can also cause a person to become very irritable.
  4. Increased depression – If your teen is already dealing with depression, it may become more prominent during the darker months if they also have SAD.

Seasonal affective disorder in teens is a real problem, but is also something that parents can help their teenagers work through. How seasonal affective disorder in teens is treated depends largely on what other mental health issues the teen might be dealing with. Many doctors simply recommend a regimen of sunlight—having a teen get up earlier and take a walk in the sunlight before school.

Image source: flickr user- Bert Kaufmann

This is not the only treatment and for many teens with busy schedules, it may not even be an option. Season affective disorder is teens is also treated with light therapy. The teen starts by sitting in front of a bright light for a few minutes each day, building up to hour long sessions. Many people experience almost instantaneous relief with light therapy.

Seasonal affective disorder in teens is often treated in conjunction with depression or bipolar disorder. In some cases, adjusting a medication or providing an additional medication to deal with the additional symptoms can help a teen.

Trails Carolina can help

Trails Carolina, a wilderness therapy program for teens ages 10-17, can help your teen struggling with depression, anxiety, and substance use issues, find success and happiness. For more information about Trails Carolina, please call 800-975-7303.

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Jeremy Whitworth

As Executive Director at Trails Carolina, a leading wilderness therapy program for youth and teens, I oversee operations and collaborate with our leadership team. Since 2022, I've also hosted the Common Ground Podcast for parents: With a background in Wilderness Leadership and Experiential Education, I've managed adventure-based therapeutic programs across the US and Canada. My experiences in competitive athletics and adventure sports have honed my leadership, risk assessment, and decision-making skills, which I apply to running a successful business like Trails Carolina.

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Trails saved my daughter’s life. Amanda is an amazing human and a brilliant therapist. I am so grateful to her, Science Steve, and the other wonderful people who could reach my daughter at a time when I could not.

Margot Lowman August 2022

Great life changing experience for our son. After becoming addicted to gaming during covid he was very depressed. At Trails he experienced the wilderness, Science Steve, learning survival skills and top notch therapy and support etc… I highly recommend! This gave our son and our family a renewed family bond full of love and excitement about his bright future.

Winnifred Wilson July 2022


Outstanding clinical work and superb staff! There’s a great culture at this company and it shows with how they engage with families/clients.

Kristin Brace June 2022


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