By Tom Schreck
Although there have been no scientific studies that have definitively found a link between autism spectrum disorders and seasonal affective disorders, many people with autism report elevated levels of depression during the dark winter months. It can happen to anyone of us but is sometimes not recognized in our loved ones with autism.
SAD can impact people in different ways and with different levels of intensity. Some commons symptoms of the disorder include:
- Changes in mood
- Changes in appetite
- Changes in sleeping patterns
- Difficulty concentrating
- Low energy
- Lack of a desire to socialize
Females and individuals with a family history are more likely to develop SAD as well as those who already struggle with depression. In many ways SAD mimics the symptoms of depression but there are concrete actions to take that may lessen its impact. SAD is a very real diagnosis and you should consult a doctor if symptoms persist. Treatment may include talk therapy, medication and even light therapy.
Lifestyle recommendations can help. Regular exercise and solid nutrition both can help with the symptoms of SAD. It is also important to get out during the day light hours and, when possible, keep your house bright and well lit. Supplements like Melatonin, Omega Oils, SAMe and St. John’s Wort have been used by people who claim to have positive results but please consult your physician before supplementation.
For parents it is important to be patient with your child and to establish a regular sleep routine. Talk to your son or daughter about what they are experiencing and don’t hesitate to seek professional help.