When it comes to Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), few people can compare to Dr Norman E. Rosenthal. After all, he was the man to formally describe the condition three decades ago. In the preface to the book Winter Blues, Fourth Edition: Everything You Need to Know to Beat Seasonal Affective Disorder, Rosenthal says that this fourth edition should really have everything one needs to know and his commitment to re-evaluating and updating his text is a testament to the great work that he does. An important thing to note is that Rosenthal also stresses that his book should not be taken as the only solution to SAD and that it is most effective when complementing other treatments.
Winter Blues is split in four main sections. The first part, Seasonal Syndromes, explains the history of light treatment and SAD in the field of psychiatry. It is a very interesting read and Rosenthal has a lot to teach you about the needs of the body, where those needs stem from and how the seasonal change affects those needs. He details the scientific principles behind his work, whilst leaving the text accessible and largely jargon free. It is here that Rosenthal begins to ask his reader to probe their feelings, to get a better understanding of their condition so that treatment can be applied effectively.
This is followed by a section detailing the range of treatments on offer to sufferers. The exact treatments that a patient needs will differ from person to person and whilst a lot of them can be tried by anybody, some will require the assistance of medical professionals. Rosenthal advises his readers to discuss their options with their doctor, which is an important thing to stress as it helps to ensure that people get the best treatment, increasing the chance of satisfaction. Each chapter in this section deals with a particular treatment, starting with light therapy. Light therapy was developed by Dr Rosenthal and his associates who ran studies to examine the link between light exposure and mood. It is from their research that light boxes came into existence and Rosenthal goes through the ideal light box treatment for your mood. The other chapters go through psychotherapy and medication, as well as a chapter on meditation, which is a new addition to the fourth edition. Rosenthal advises that readers explore their options, pointing out that it is possible to combine more than one course of treatment.
Thirdly are four chapters grouped under the title Celebrating the Seasons. Here Rosenthal gets into a key misunderstanding that people sometimes develop when approaching SAD. The colder seasons are not to be opposed and, in fact, he suggests that thinking of them as adversarial will have an adverse effect on one’s health. Once one begins to adapt to the seasons, using the techniques outlined in Part II, one can enjoy everything that the seasons have to offer. The cold and the darkness are only one part of winter and if you let that dominate the narrative, SAD becomes that much harder to overcome.
The final section groups together several resources which the reader may find useful. These include web addresses, light box recommendations and suppliers, as well as a list of support groups where SAD sufferers can meet and share their experiences with the condition. The book may also give you the confidence to start your own support group, if one is not available nearby.
The book’s appendices contain a mood log and core belief worksheets, two things which are regularly used in therapy to help patients feel a sense of control. A last look at the bibliography reveals a huge cache of further reading, should you wish to dive deeper into the subject.
Perhaps the only downside to the book is that, at 353 pages, it is a little on the long side. Of course, this is to be expected from a book that promises to cover everything about a particular subject but given that depressed people often have a difficult time focusing on tasks such as reading, it may prove a little daunting to the people who need it the most. Nevertheless, one shouldn’t feel obliged to read the book from cover to cover. In fact, it is possible to just pick and choose interesting chapters or just read one or two of the answers to the frequently asked questions on light therapy.
The book is also a bit short on covering topics like exercise, diet and psychotherapy. Luckily, there are a number of other great books on these topics.
The book is available in both paperback and hardback, as well as in eBook format. This last option is particularly useful if you wish to read up about SAD without broadcasting your condition to the world. It also makes in convenient for those times you need to refresh your knowledge of meditation techniques. This book comes highly recommended and is quite simply, a must read for SAD sufferers.