Are You Sad?

One of the features of Connecticut is the distinct change of seasons. Spring fills us with joy and hopes for better days. The warmth of summer should encourage us all to get outside and get some exercise.

By Dr. Robert B. Golenbock

Fall in New England is so well known that people travel long distances to see the brilliant colors of the leaves. Then there’s winter. For skiers and others devoted to winter sports, winter is eagerly awaited. Most of the time, though, winter is best described with words like dark, dreary, and cold. It’s no wonder that so many religions have holidays that celebrate lighting up the darkness around the time of the winter solstice, when days are so short.

During the winter months, many animals hibernate. They curl up someplace safe and sleep for months, rarely moving or eating. I find it interesting that people are also influenced by long nights and short days. Often, we seem to eat as if we, too, intend to hibernate. We curl up under a blanket in front of a fire if we can. Unless we have scheduled activities, we get rather lazy. And our emotions can play tricks on us as well. The winter holiday season can be extremely stressful. The “Christmas season,” which includes most of December and the beginning of January, is responsible for relationship stress, economic stress, and metabolic stress (too many cookies). For a number of people, stress makes their susceptibility to depression much worse. Depression is more than just being sad. There is a feeling of hopelessness, helplessness, even the feeling that there is no way out of such misery. While depression occurs throughout the year, the depression that is triggered by winter’s gloom has a specific cause. It is called Seasonal Affective Disorder -- in English, the initials spell SAD.  This is not just a problem for adults but for children and adolescents as well. You can identify it by its recurrence during the winter months. The treatment is very straightforward. You get a lamp that uses bulbs that mimic natural light. These bulbs are a lot more expensive than the bulbs you buy in lighting stores or hardware stores, but they can really make a difference to people afflicted with this condition.

It was thinking about the gloom of winter that brought me to the topic I really wanted to write about. The emotional problems of children and adolescents, particularly depression, are really too complex for a brief article, but the subject needs to be addressed. What you need to know is that depression and even suicide are much too common. We cannot ignore our children’s emotional problems by assuming that they will inevitably get better. If your child seems sad, uninterested in friends and activities, constantly seems isolated, or if you suspect that your child is being bullied, speak to your pediatrician. Pediatricians can help get to the bottom of your child’s problems or arrange a consultation with a therapist or a psychiatrist. When your child is unable to deal with the darkness, it is up to you to light a candle. 

Robert B. Golenbock, MD, is currently retired. He has cared for children in the Danbury area for 43 years, including at the Center for Pediatric Medicine. The CPM is located at 107 Newtown Rd, #1D, Danbury, CT, 06810. For more information, please call (203) 790-0822 or visit