A SAD time of year?
At this time of the year a very common theme in therapy is the constant reference to a phenomena called SAD. In mental health speak there are a number of different SAD conditions but in this context SAD stands for Seasonal Affective Disorder. This describes that dip in mood which occurs when the clocks go back, night falls early and cold misty mornings herald the onset of the winter months.
This raises an interesting question for SAD sufferers and counsellors alike. Should this change in mood just be regarded as a natural feature of the winter season perhaps similar to that other inevitable winter complaint of an irritating cold? Alternatively should SAD be seen as a serious emotional problem which requires some formal intervention such as that provided by talking therapies or medication.
Perhaps much depends on the severity of what is also termed the winter blues. If the low mood is transient and lifted by a positive experience then that may indicate a relatively benign attack of SAD which the individual will be able to deal with through her or his own resources. If however the depressive episode is such that the individual finds difficulty in leaving home, is unable to interact with friends and colleagues or even lacks the energy to attend work or college then there is clearly a more serious condition to be addressed.
Another way of diagnosing the severity of the individual’s SAD episode could be with reference to future expectations. If despite feeling low, the individual is still able to look forward and recognize that spring will eventually return, that could be seen as an indicator that the individual has sufficient internal resources to withstand the SAD onslaught.
If however that foreboding about the oncoming winter is such that it impacts on the individual’s ability to be present in the moment even during a beautiful blue sky autumn day,if melancholy continually negates hope, and if an underlying sense of depression and anxiety is ever present then there may well to be a very real emotional issue to be addressed. On those occasions some external support may be both required.
And what if it proves difficult to reach a view as to whether this down turn in mood is severe enough to merit intervention? Well perhaps on those occasions an initial talk with a willing listener may help. If a friend cannot be found or if it is difficult to talk to family or colleagues then perhaps a discussion with the GP, health worker or a counsellor may be the next step to take.
Wherever we are during the coming winter months, whether here in Chichester in West Sussex, or in a large city or in the quiet of the countryside, if that SAD feeling persists and threatens to become a fixture you can do something about it! Whether it is January or July life is here to be experienced and enjoyed – and not just endured.