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Cognitive Behavior Therapy for Seasonal Affective Disorder (CBT for SAD)

Cognitive Behavior Therapy for Seasonal Affective Disorder with image of winter blues

Cognitive Behavior Therapy for Seasonal Affective Disorder

Do you ever feel more “blue” during certain months of the year? Especially during the fall and winter? If you’re nodding your head, you may be dealing with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD.) There is an estimate that Seasonal Affective Disorder(SAD) impacts 10 million Americans. SAD is considered to be a subset of depression. It is a disorder that occurs frequently during the same seasons. It is more common to experience this during the fall and winter months, however, it can happen in the spring and summer. And just as CBT can help people with depression, CBT for Seasonal Affective Disorder can also be highly effective and helpful. 

Symptoms of SAD

Since SAD is a subset of depression, it shares a lot of similar symptoms. Some of these are:

  • Chronic fatigue/low energy
  • Sleeping too much/too little
  • Overeating
  • Socially withdrawing

However, there are some key differences between the two. To be diagnosed with SAD, the symptoms have to appear concurrently two years in a row during the same season. This is unlike general depression which isn’t dependent on the season to manifest. Specific symptoms of SAD are:

  • Losing interest in hobbies more often during key depressive months
  • Difficulty completing tasks that were more difficult than before
  • You experience more sadness or negative thoughts than you normally would

Treating SAD – Cognitive Behavior Therapy for Seasonal Affective Disorder with light therapy can help!

There are a few different ways that SAD can be treated. One popular method is light therapy. Typically, SAD affects those who live in colder climates that receive less sun throughout the year. Light therapy mimics the sun and can provide relief from SAD without the use of anti-depressants. However, light therapy, while moderately effective, has varying results from person to person when used alone (without CBT for Seasonal Affective Disorder treatment)

As mentioned, one therapeutic method that works great alone or in conjunction with other treatments is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT.)

What Is Cognitive Behavior Therapy or CBT?

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is a scientifically proven method to treat a variety of disorders. From anxiety to depression, and trauma, CBT is a powerful arsenal for many therapists. The power in CBT is with its ability to challenge negative thoughts and unhelpful behaviors. By challenging these thoughts, and behaviors, it can then influence the emotions, thoughts and behaviors that we exhibit.

When we have negative thoughts that ruminate in our heads or too long, they can dramatically decrease the amount of happiness we feel. It is also true that when we stop doing activities that give us pleasure, including a reduction in physical activity, our moods usually drop as well. This is good to know because we can start to do behaviors that used to make us feel good, to then begin to feel good again. The expression, fake it till you make it, kind of applies here. By repeating actions that used to make us feel good, over time, you will begin to feel good again.

What Causes Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)?

When people are coping with seasonal depression, they often have many negative thoughts surrounding that season.

For instance, when someone hates winter, they may talk and think about it very negatively. What leads someone to this place? It can vary from person to person. Common reasons could be anxiety over winter because they experienced a bad car accident due to weather conditions. Or, they may have gone through another traumatic event that happened in winter. Or they just might not like winter and feel down during the colder, darker months. 

How Can It Help SAD?

No matter what season brings on depression, there is hope that you can cope with it more proactively.

Cognitive Behavior Therapy for Seasonal Affective Disorder, essentially, helps to retrain the brain to challenge negative thoughts you have that seem to appear with the season. Challenging the negative thought, in turn, will result in behavioral modifications that can relieve the depressive episodes. And likewise, starting with behavioral modifications will also change your thinking and how you are feeling. What is great about Cognitive Behavior Therapy for Seasonal Affective Disorder is that your therapist will often do both at the same time to help you feel better sooner and faster. 

Participating in talk therapy will help clients to engage in activities that they do enjoy and bring them satisfaction. Instead of viewing everything about the changing season as a negative experience, you can learn on how to look forward to different activities that are possible during these winter months. More time for reading, catching up on indoor projects, the list could go on and on.

Working closely with a therapist who provides Cognitive Behavior Therapy for Seasonal Affective Disorder can also give you the opportunity to work through exercises that help you address the sources of anxiety and depression you are feeling during the winter months.

Coping with seasonal depression is a struggle that many go through. It is a challenge to feel okay when everything about your environment bothers you. However, talk therapies such as Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) can help treat your anxiety and depression so you can enjoy life again. Click to learn more about in office Cognitive Behavior Therapy and Online CBT .

I am a Licensed Mental Health Counselor in Hawaii and an Accredited CBT Therapist in the UK with over 15 years of experience. I specialize in anxiety treatment and life transition treatments , including PTSD therapy. I have received advanced specialist training in Cognitive Behavior Therapy and Compassion Focused Therapy. Please feel free to contact me at my Honolulu or London clinic to set up a  Cognitive Behavior Therapy for Seasonal Affective Disorder Test Drive.

CBT Test Drive

The right approach, tools and fit is a game changer. For this reason, I offer an Initial Test Drive session to see if working together could be a great fit for you. Each Test Drive lasts between 45-60 minutes and takes place within my Video Consulting Room. Based on the latest evidence, science, and my experience, I will aim to make concrete suggestions as to what I think can be most helpful for you.