Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D.) affects more than 25 million Americans each year. It is four times more likely to be found in women than men and is most common in the 24-40 age range. It is characterized by overwhelming feelings of depression during the winter months.
S.A.D. symptoms include: mental confusion, inability to concentrate, procrastination, difficulty with small tasks, feelings of helplessness, overeating (usually heavy, starchy foods), restless sleep, low sex drive, and an overall withdrawal from the world. Physical symptoms such as backaches, muscle and joint aches, and headaches are common.
Geographical studies of patients with S.A.D. indicated that the disorder was more prevalent the further north the subject lived. For example, one study showed that an estimate of 1.4% of the population near the equator was afflicted with S.A.D. The percent rose in accordance with the latitude and indicated a figure of 10.2 % in Canada.
Further research into the cause of the disease has shown altered brain chemical levels in those suffering from S.A.D. It has been found that the S.A.D. patient’s chemical levels approach the normal levels during the summer months or when moved into an atmosphere with greater amounts of light.
Conventional treatment for S.A.D. sufferers involves light therapy. Patient brain chemicals are nearer normal levels after spending time in front of light boxes with full-spectrum fluorescent light bulbs. Although this type of treatment works for some S.A.D. patients, many experience side effects. This treatment requires patients to sit in front of light boxes for numerous hours per day (depending on severity of the symptoms). Not only does this treatment take up a lot of the patient’s time, but many report adverse side affects such as: headaches, eyestrain, irritability, overactivity, insomnia (due to a “wired” feeling) and skin sensitivity problems such as rashes.
Another conventional treatment for S.A.D. is prescription anti-depressants. The concern over this method of treatment is with the inability to accurately predict dosage requirements. Because patient brain chemical levels fluctuate with weather conditions, it is almost impossible for doctors to prescribe medication amounts that will consistently combat the disorder. Unfortunately, the result is that patients are often over or under medicated as the weather conditions vary.
Hypnotherapy is an effective alternative treatment for S.A.D. victims. Hypnosis can be used to balance the brain chemical levels to a level consistent with those found in the same patient during the summer months or during adequate lighting conditions.
A hypnotherapy pracitioner can guide the S.A.D. sufferer through creative visualizations that cause physiological responses consistent with those experienced during actual sun exposure. The visualizations usually involve experiences in sun-filled atmospheres, causing the patient to develop a mindset comparable to those experienced during the sun-filled summer months.
The hypnotherapist will also give the patient hypnotic suggestions that help the patient deal with the daily effects of the S.A.D .condition. Establishing set goals and giving motivational suggestions can help the patient accomplish necessary tasks. Suggestions for sound sleep, healthy eating habits, and an increased ability to concentrate, can improve the patient’s ability to maintain a typical lifestyle.
Through hypnotherapy, S.A.D. sufferers can experience positive moods, thoughts, and emotions independent of seasons and lighting conditions. Confidence and self-esteem suggestions given to the patient while in the hypnotic state help the patient form a positive self-concept and optimistic outlook. A hypnotherapy practitioner can effectively facilitate the patient in finding inner happiness and uncovering a beautiful, glowing, internal sunshine.