Do the first signs of fall make you feel like hibernating until spring? During the winter months, do you feel irritable and depressed?
If this sounds familiar, you may be one of the twenty percent of American adults suffering from seasonal affective disorder (SAD). SAD is a pattern of depression that comes and goes as the seasons cycle, the daylight hours lengthen and shorten, and the temperature changes. The condition can disrupt your life to such an extent that you may find it hard to focus on your work, to socialize, and even to get out of bed each morning.
Having worked with SAD-affected people in a therapeutic setting, I am aware of just how debilitating and misunderstood the disorder can be. But because incidents of SAD vary in severity, widely-published psychiatrist Norman Rosenthal and co-author Christine Benton have created a comprehensive workbook that is suitable for anyone living with the condition, from those who are only mildly affected — and may not even be aware of the cause — to those who find SAD so debilitating that it is hard to function on a daily basis.
The book has three main targets to help SAD recovery. The first is to help you gain awareness of the disorder’s mechanisms and how they affect you specifically. The second is to assist you in making preparations to minimize the effects of SAD. The third is to equip you with the skills to prevent the worst symptoms.
Included in the book are a range of tools — questionnaires, annual and monthly charts, and personal history questions — to help you work out how and when SAD affects your life. This will in turn help reveal how SAD affects your diet, your sleep patterns, your work routine, and your family.
Ultimately, you will end up with a “global seasonality score,” which tells you how severe your SAD is and points you to the best ways to manage it. Once you have established your personal SAD profile, the chapters that follow are designed to help you let go of the condition.
To that end, the second half of the book is devoted to the different treatments that are available. Rosenthal explains how some sufferers may benefit from light therapy while others may find that this exacerbates their symptoms. Two chapters discuss the benefits of making positive changes to your lifestyle and diet, such as exercising regularly and reducing processed food. The chapter on stress management offers tips on meditation and relaxation methods and the final chapter discusses currently available prescriptions medications for those who wish to consider that option.
Rosenthal knows there is no “one-size-fits-all” solution to the problem, and has developed a flexible yet effective system for coping with the condition, without creating tension or arousing guilt. The exercises, which encourage you to journal your experiences, provide great insight into your mental, physical, and emotional relationships to the shifting seasons.
What makes this book stand out above the rest on the subject is its easy-to-follow structure. Because Rosenthal has broken down each aspect of the disorder, you can easily follow the path to recovery no matter your current level of intensity. Whether your symptoms include fatigue, increased appetite, depression, reduced sex drive, difficulty waking, or a combination, the book can help you find a clear and practical set of strategies for overcoming them.
Winter Blues Survival Guide: A Workbook For Overcoming SAD
The Guilford Press, September 2013
Paperback, 275 pages