THE WINTER BLUES
Well, it looks like winter is easing a bit at last and there are hints that we might soon be starting to enjoy some better weather. This is something that we all can look forward to. However, before winter loses it grip, it is worth remembering that bleak weather, just by itself, can sometimes cause us to become depressed. Any of us can get the winter blues. Of course, in many cases the answer is to just tough it through. Cheer yourself up somehow – meet your friends; take some exercise; have a nice hot bowl of soup; have a comfortable evening in the warm – whatever floats your boat. Sometime, however, if somebody becomes sufficiently depressed they might become what therapists call ‘of clinical significance’. When that happens we might not be talking about the winter blues anymore. We might be dealing with a case of Seasonal Affective Disorder, (SAD).
SAD is a particular variant of depression and for some patients there is good evidence to suggest that it is caused by a lack of sunlight. Typically SAD sufferers experience lethargy, social withdrawal, sleep problems, libido loss, anxiety, irritability, gloomy thoughts, and similar symptoms. Obviously these symptoms can also be found in other medical and psychological conditions so it’s always best to consult your doctor first. If you do have SAD then the treatment can be simple. Providing that your doctor agrees, get yourself a medically certified SAD Lamp/Sun Lamp and use it as directed. You will probably soon start to feel better. Of course if you can afford to fly off somewhere hot for some winter sun you will probably feel even better!
It is important to note that the sorts of symptoms that I have listed above are also some of the symptoms found in people who suffer generally from one of the depressive disorders. These days, psychotherapists are increasingly using Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, (CBT), as first choice of treatment. This is because for mild depression at least, it works well and it works quickly. However, CBT is not the ‘cure-all’ that the NHS would have us all believe. The NHS pushes CBT hard because it cheap to set up and even cheaper to deliver. That is why CBT is becoming more and more easily available through most people’s GPs.
If you are depressed at a clinically significant level then generally speaking you, if you want active treatment, you have three choices. You can take an anti-depressant, have some CBT, or see a psychotherapist. Actually you do not have to make a clear choice because often an appropriate combination of all three treatments is the best way forward. As always, consult your GP or a properly qualified psychotherapist first. That way you can get the information you need to make the choice that is right for you. After all it’s your life. A good psychotherapist can help you make it worth living!