STATES CHRONICLE – Therapy beats seasonal depression according to a new study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry. Also known as seasonal affective disorder or SAD, seasonal depression sets at the same time as winter for most sufferers.
Experts explain that SAD is not just a case of hating winter or feeling blue, as it has serious effects such as an almost permanent feeling of depression, low energy levels, feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness, difficulty concentrating and even thoughts of suicide, all of these throughout winter.
In this new study, psychologists from the University of Vermont research ways of stopping seasonal affective disorder before it sets in during the winter and compared the standard light therapy sufferers typically use to counseling and talking to a therapist about personal anxieties.
Lead researcher Kelly Rohan explained that, while light treatment is a palliative treatment, in that it needs to be used again and again in order for it to be effective. Trying to discover if cognitive behavioral therapy would offer a better treatment course, Rohan and her team separated 177 patients previously diagnosed with SAD into two groups.
The first group of participants in the study was treated with light therapy for a period of six weeks. Light therapy, the standard treatment for seasonal affective disorder, consists of exposing the patient to a source of light for a predetermined amount of time every day in order to help the body reset its inner clock and function better. The participants were exposed to 30 minutes of artificial light every morning.
The second group tried cognitive behavioral therapy, which consisted of two weekly group therapy sessions. After both groups undergoing treatment for two winters, results of the research showed that 46 percent of patients in the light therapy group reported feeling depressed during the second winter. In comparison, only 27 percent of the patients in the cognitive behavioral therapy group reported the same symptoms in the second year.
Also, patients in the second group reported less severe symptoms than people in the first. So, while both treatments provided remarkable results, Rohan believes that CBT could be a more effective treatment in the long run because it requires less time and shows more promising improvements in patients.
CBT can also have long-term effects, as working through patient’s anxieties can equip people with the tools they need to protect themselves in future winters. Finding new treatment courses for SAD is always welcome as more than half a million people reported that they experience mood disorders between September and April according to Mental Health America.
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