Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD): is a type of depression that occurs during a particular season – usually winter – and is thought to be caused by a neurological anomaly due to the lack of light. Treatment has traditionally been with ‘lightboxes’ (light therapy / phototherapy), where sufferers are routinely exposed to artificial light that can help to shift the chemical balance and lift the depression. Standard anti-depressants are also regularly prescribed for SAD, with varying results.
New trials using CBT treatment for SAD show it to be very effective in teaching sufferers how to understand and manage, and even eventually prevent, the symptoms of the condition – and the positive outcomes of treatment are shown to stay with the client on follow up checks.
How does it work? Like any depression, SAD distorts the lens that we view life through, as well as lowering our moods and energy levels. And when we feel very low, we develop depression thinking – with negative automatic thoughts like: ‘Life is awful’, ‘I’m awful’, ‘I can’t cope’, ‘People are horrible’, ‘I can’t function in winter’, and so on. These thoughts can SEEM true – but of course they’re only a bit true temporarily, and accepting them as absolute and true statements makes us even more upset, and encourages us to hibernate and avoid life and stimulation, creating a vicious circle. CBT teaches skills to deal with this:
CBT helps people to prepare for, and to manage, this typical cycle of thinking – and stops it taking over by teaching real and practical skills to build awareness of distortions, and to challenge and change dramatic thinking to realistic thinking, over and over, until we are using rational thinking skills most of the time, rather than ‘depression thinking’. CBT un-distorts thinking, and gives us the tools to un-upset ourselves, consciously and deliberately, rewiring our brains.
CBT also helps us address how we behave – tracking ‘depression behaviour’, and encouraging a practical diary of activities, whether we feel like it or not, that lift us up and get us back into normal life. It’s a true science that exercise and social activities lift mood and give us more energy and make us happier, and faking it til we make it works.
CBT is an effective ‘medicine’ and careplan that works. But you’ve got to do the work…
Interested in trying it? Check out the self help guide to getting started with CBT skills here on this blog – go to the chronological list page, for a beginning middle and end…
And/or book a real life or skype session with me – (use the contact me form, or email enquiries to veronica@CBTandFeelingGood.com).
Click HERE to open a window to a great longread about SAD by the world renowned Mayo Clinic.