Saturday, 29 October 2011

How Hypnotherapy Can Help Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

seasonal affective disorder and hypnotherapyEarlier today I appeared as a guest speaker on BBC Radio Bristol’s Saturday Surgery programme hosted by Dr Phil Hammond. The Saturday morning show discusses topical medical issues and this week one of the issues they were looking at was Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), what with the clocks going back this evening and winter looming. As a Clinical Hypnotherapist, I was asked to speak about this disorder and how it can be helped with Hypnotherapy.

According to the NHS, Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that has a seasonal pattern. The cause of this disorder is not fully understood although it is thought that it may be linked to reduced exposure to sunlight during the shorter days of the year.

A lack of light affects the levels of two very important chemicals that are produced by our brains; Melatonin and Serotonin.

Melatonin is produced when it gets dark and makes us sleepy – it is how our body knows it is night time and that we should go to sleep. When the nights get in, we produce more Melatonin which makes us feel drowsy and encourages us to sleep more. People who suffer with Seasonal Affective Disorder produce much higher than normal levels of this hormone.

Sunlight affects the production of Serotonin so as the days get shorter, we start producing less Serotonin. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter responsible for maintaining a healthy state of mind. Serotonin is what helps us feel motivated, enthusiastic, happy and in control of our life and has a big effect on our mood and behaviour. It also has an effect on our appetite, sleeping pattern, memory and learning ability. People with Depression, including Seasonal Affective Disorder, produce much lower than average serotonin levels. Hypnotherapy helps stimulate the production of serotonin.

There are a wide range of symptoms associated with depression including:
• Depressed mood, feeling sad or empty, tearful
• Diminished interest or pleasure in daily activities
• Significant weight changes, change in appetite and cravings
• Sleeping too much, sleep disturbances
• Hand wringing, twitching, pacing, tapping foot, hair twiddling etc.
• Fatigue, loss of energy
• Feelings of worthlessness, helplessness, guilt
• Diminished ability to think, lack of concentration, indecisiveness
• Loss of libido

SAD affects an estimated 7% of the UK population every winter. If it was just down to the fact that we get less sunlight during the winter, then perhaps we would see a higher percentage of people suffering from the disorder, so there are clearly other factors involved.

The way we think plays a key role in whether we experience depression or not and this can also be said about SAD.

People often say “We are what we eat”, but also “we are what we think”. If we are constantly thinking in a negative way we are more likely to have negative experiences, feel anxious and depressed compared to when we have a more positive outlook. It’s all about perception! So if we are a “glass half full” kind of person we will be focusing on the positive aspects of the season, perhaps looking forward to taking the kids trick or treating, going shopping for some new jumpers or thinking about spending time with family and friends this Christmas and just getting on with life in a positive way. While the “glass half empty” person will be dreading having to get up in the dark and going to work, coming home in the dark, perhaps thinking about how they always feel fed up at this time of year and how its only going to get worse as the days get shorter.

Hypnosis helps the SAD sufferer to reframe their views on this time of the year creating a more positive and relaxed state of mind. Hypnotherapy helps to lift your mood enabling you to break the cycle of depression and get you focused on the positive aspects of your life, leading to an improvement in the symptoms associated with SAD.

Another thing worth mentioning is that our brain will always refer to previous patterns of behaviour in any given situation. So for example, if you reacted to a spider in an anxious way last time you saw one, then your brain will encourage you to do the same again. Let’s say that for the past 5 winters, you’ve felt depressed, slept a lot, put on weight, and not socialised much because it’s cold and dark. Now over the last few weeks the nights have started to get in and it’s going to get even darker in the evenings after the clocks go back tonight. Subconsciously, your brain is thinking what happened last time it was cold and dark? Well, you were depressed, you ate more and slept more and that worked last time so lets do it again! Hypnotherapy helps to change these templates enabling you to feel more positive and in control of the situation.

If you are suffering with Seasonal Affective Disorder in Bristol and would like to find out more about how Hypnotherapy can help you through the winter, call me on 07851 307 062 or email to book your FREE initial consultation.

Listen to me talking to Dr Phil Hammond about Seasonal Affective Disorder and Hypnotherapy

More information:
How Hypnotherapy can help with Depression, including Seasonal Affective Disorder
Information from the NHS on Seasonal Affective Disorder
Light Boxes and Seasonal Affective Disorder


  1. Unfortunately, I'm used to suffering from this problem. As a result, I have some methods of dealinf with it to share:

  2. I live in a climate that gets very cold over the winter and can respect how common SAD is. I this is a great insight on yet another fantastic application for hypnosis.