As the clocks go back and nights draw in we can often find it difficult to get out of bed in the morning and muster the energy to face the day. Staying in with our home comforts can be far more appealing when it’s dark and cold outside and that new boxset is calling… But for some people a change in seasons can be truly debilitating; a trigger for depression.
Depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide. Depression with seasonal pattern (the new name for SAD; Seasonal Affective Disorder) amounts to up to 20% of cases of depression*; those living in the UK and other northern hemisphere countries with shorter days and inclement weather are particularly susceptible. With shorter days and grey skies lasting up to half the year in the UK that is a long time to suffer.
But however dark it is outside, there are ways out of the mental black hole.
Psychological therapy is a highly effective treatment for depression, including the seasonal variety*. First of all it is important that a clinical assessment takes place. This is to understand the person better. No two people with ‘depression’ experience exactly the same symptoms and everyone comes with their own unique life story. It is important to understand the particular symptoms that are troubling in their context; what they mean and how they affect both the person and those around them. For example, is it difficult to concentrate and/or make decisions? Are there changes to appetite, weight or sleeping patterns? Is the person having thoughts of worthlessness or experiencing prolonged feelings of hopelessness?
So how might psychological therapy help?
Though far from an exhaustive list, the below points give you an idea of what clinical psychology can offer:
Work to identify and replace unhelpful coping or behaviour patterns e.g. avoidance
Helping to maintain focus on things within a person’s control that can put the things that can’t be controlled (the weather, negative thoughts…) in the background
Helping to improve relationships and support networks to gain a more compassionate understanding, increasing hope and clarity going forward
It may feel daunting, but the first step to getting help can be the hardest of all…
It is during our darkest moments that we must focus to see the light.