Ah, winter. It’s filled with holidays and crisp, cold air. Visions of of snow covered scenes and kids playing and laughing. But for many people, the season can also include a case of the winter “blahs”. And for some, the winter months bring a much more debilitating condition called Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD. While it can occur at any time, it is far more prevalent during the winter months. Perhaps that’s why December is Seasonal Affective Disorder Awareness Month.
Since SAD is a kind of depression it shares some characteristics with other types of depression. Some common symptoms of SAD are:
feelings of low energy
sleeping longer than normal without feeling refreshed
food cravings, especially carbohydrates
feelings of anxiety or depression
decreased pleasure or interest in normal activities
a feeling of a need to hibernate
While there are multiple ideas as to the precise mechanism of SAD, there is general agreement that it is related to the decreased amount of sunlight exposure to which sufferers are exposed during the winter months. It may be a change in melatonin (a neurochemical that helps people sleep) and serotonin (a neurochemical that helps us feel happy) production during those months, though it is possible depression affects serotonin levels rather than vice-versa. Regardless of the symptoms and the exact cause, SAD can only be diagnosed by a physician or appropriate mental health professional.
While there are a number of pharmaceutical treatments for SAD, the primary treatment is light therapy. In addition, hypnosis can be a powerful tool in helping a person who has been diagnosed with SAD. In fact, it has been suggested that hypnosis may be a more effective tool for dealing with some forms of depression than some traditional talk therapy. There are (at least) two ways in which hypnosis can be helpful in dealing with SAD. First, there is evidence that hypnosis can increase both serotonin and endorphin levels, though there is no consensus as to the relationship between serotonin and depression. Still, since both serotonin and endorphins help people feel relaxed and happy, this increase may well be helpful.
Second, hypnosis is very effective in changing the way people view their circumstances and their actions. By learning to look at things differently, people can often change the way they think about what’s going on in their lives. With hypnosis, the mind can be taught to think in more positive and non-pessimistic ways. This, along with the power to learn better coping skills using hypnosis can result in people feeling greater feelings of control and comfort with their lives, leading to a significant improvement in both their symptoms and the quality of their lives.
Rather than being a serious case of the winter “blahs”, SAD is a very real condition that affects real people every year. If you have been diagnosed with SAD, you should absolutely continue with the treatment or therapy recommended by your physician or mental health professional. Still, you may find it helpful to ask him or her for a referral to a hypnotist, especially one with experience in working with SAD or other kinds of depression. This is important, because effective hypnosis requires that you be absolutely honest with your hypnotist and he or she will almost certainly require that referral before agreeing to work with you. Only you can take charge of your health and only you can decide if you want to do something to improve the quality of your life. If so, get the referral, find a good hypnotist and start feeling better!