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Talking could prevent SAD

Talking could prevent SAD

With the cold winter nights and gloomy dark mornings upon us, winter can be a hard time for many people. But for anyone with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), the season can be completely crippling as it triggers symptoms including depression, overeating, irritability, anxiety, loss of libido and difficulty concentrating. These issues usually subside in spring but until then, many sufferers use light boxes - which simulate the sun's rays - to help them get through the day.

While the gadgets are effective in the first year a person uses them, researchers from the University of Vermont believe the second year is less of a success at dealing with the condition because users do not keep up the routine. Instead, they think a cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) 'talking cure' can work just as well for people with SAD.

During their research, the team tested 177 research subjects who suffered from SAD for six weeks with either light therapy or CBT.

The latter group were taught to challenge negative thoughts about dark winter months and resist behaviours such as social isolation that can affect SAD and increase depression. Meanwhile, the light therapy subjects were advised to continue with daily sessions and were given the option to have the treatments again the following winter. A second group spent six weeks receiving cognitive-behavioural therapy during two 50-minute sessions per week.

The results from the first winter showed that the two treatment groups had shown a good level of relief from their SAD symptoms, but two winters on, 46 per cent of subjects in the light therapy group reported their depression came back, compared with 27 per cent of those in the CBT group. The light therapy group also had more severe symptoms.

"Light therapy is a palliative treatment, like blood pressure medication, that requires you to keep using the treatment for it to be effective," said Professor Kelly Rohan, who carried out the study. "Adhering to the light therapy prescription upon waking for 30 minutes to an hour every day for up to five months in dark states can be burdensome."

She added that CBT has a preventive function in that it gives sufferers a sense of control over their situation and symptoms.

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