“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Seasonal Affective Disorder

For some people, Fall represents football games, crunching of leaves, hot cider and family get togethers.  In other people, as the days become shorter and darker, there is an increase in sadness and depression; a desire to hibernate and retreat from the world. Sometimes the feeling of hibernation becomes so unbearable that it affects every day life. In these cases, a person may have Seasonal Affective Disorder.  Here are the criteria:
  • You've experienced depression and other symptoms for at least two consecutive years, during the same season every year.
  • The periods of depression have been followed by periods without depression.
  • There are no other explanations for the changes in your mood or behavior.
If you find you are dealing with these issues and it goes beyond being down a few days in a row go to your Doctor and/or talk to a counselor. It may be more than the winter blues but Seasonal Affective Disorder. 

After doing a little reading, I learned that light therapy is effective for treating Seasonal Affective Disorder.  Some studies have also found that cognitive behavioral therapy is also helpful.  The focus of treatment is to improve coping with the winter season. The thought "restructuring" focuses on challenging the negative thoughts related to the winter season, the weather conditions, and lack of light (Rohan et al, 2004). More specifically the cognitive behavioral therapy focuses on:
  • Thinking positively
  • Increasing activity levels
  • Socializing with other people
  • Being aware of SAD symptoms
  • Exercise
  • Going outside
  • Making home brighter
  • Going South on a trip/vacation
  • Keeping a regular sleep schedule
If you find that you dread the end of the spring and summer months, try reframing your thoughts into Fall as a fresh start i.e. new school year, new clothes (think of all the sales going on) etc. In the Fall, I like to buy new hazelnut candles and listen to jazz music.  My house smells like hazelnut coffee and the sounds of jazz waft through the air. This ritual helps me to get excited for Fall instead of dread the end of the lazy days of summer. I, also, love to invite friends over for a meal and enjoy their company.  Make this winter a joyful season with lasting memories. What can you do this Fall/Winter to help you enjoy the season?

Rohan, K. J., Lindsey, K. T., Roecklein, K. A. & Lacy, T. J. (2004). Cognitive-behavioral therapy, light therapy, and their combination in treating seasonal affective disorder. Journal of Affective Disorders, 80, 273-283.

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