Although sometimes dismissed as “holiday blues” or “winter blues,” Seasonal Affective Disorder is a real form of depression that can be triggered by winter’s cold and the longer stretches of darkness.
Unlike other forms of depression, SAD comes and goes about the same time each year, arriving in fall and fading away by spring. Like many other forms of depression, it often goes untreated, even though effective treatments are available.
Depression in its many forms affects 350 million people worldwide. Yet the disease is often unrecognized by those who are depressed, and thus is untreated. Depression affects the lives of sufferers by limiting their concentration, their effectiveness at work and their ability to sleep. A variety of medications and counseling methods effectively treat depression.
According to the National Institutes of Health, Seasonal Affective Disorder afflicts about 6 percent of U.S. residents – about 19 million, mostly in the northern states. In an article in the journal Psychiatry, psychiatrist Dr. Norman Rosenthal said patients with SAD can be just as depressed as people with other forms of major depressive disorders. The only difference is the timing.
Symptoms of clinical depression include:
* feeling depressed most of the day, nearly every day;
* feeling hopeless or worthless;
* having low energy;
* lack of enjoyment in activities the individual used to consider fun;
* difficulty concentrating;
* trouble sleeping;
* and frequent thoughts of death or suicide.
Rosenthal was a pioneer in the use of light therapy to treat SAD. Psychotherapy and medication are also used. During light therapy, patients sit under a special light for 30 to 90 minutes a day. Most patients’ conditions improve within a few days.
Recent research, however, indicates that cognitive behavioral therapy may be more effective over the long term than light therapy. In November, University of Vermont researchers published results of a study showing that two years after the first treatments, 27 percent of patients who underwent behavioral therapy reported a recurrence of symptoms. Of those who used light therapy, 46 percent reported recurrence.
The study also indicated that people using light therapy were less likely to resume the treatment after the first winter. By the second winter, only 30 percent of the light therapy group was still using the equipment, the study said. Cognitive behavioral therapy teaches patients basic skills to manage their depressive symptoms. After the first season of treatment, the study showed, both treatments were equally effective.
Researchers also are beginning to look at the effectiveness of neuro therapy, a process that monitors brain waves and then sends a sound or visual cue back to the brain to gradually change the brain wave patterns. This neurofeedback, is available at a growing number of centers around the country. Proponents say it can treat the effects of a variety of mental disorders, including depression.
If you believe you may be suffering from depression or Seasonal Affective Disorder, your doctor can help you start a treatment plan.
Maine Center of Neurointegration offers non invasive, side effect free treatment of many neurological conditions. Anxiety, depression, ADD/ADHD, insomnia, head trauma, PTSD, and many more conditions are treated in our office using Neurofeedback and other brain based therapies. Maine Center of Neurointegration focuses on balancing the brain waves and returning the brain and body back to health. Unlock your full potential today.
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