Emotional Intelligence: A greater predictor of life success?

Move Over IQ; EQ is a greater predictor of success in life

emotional-intelligenceWhen psychologists began to write and think about intelligence, they focused on cognitive aspects, such as memory and problem-solving. The Intelligence Quotient (IQ) had been considered the best measure for success in life, however over the last 30 years there has been a shift in thinking based on a plethora of research which has found that perhaps IQ isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

An example of this research on the limits of IQ as a predictor is the Sommerville study, a 40 year longitudinal investigation of 450 boys who grew up in Sommerville, Massachusetts. Two-thirds of the boys were from welfare families, and one-third had IQ’s below 90. However, IQ had little relation to how well they did at work or in the rest of their lives. What made the biggest difference was childhood abilities such as being able to handle frustration, control emotions, and get along with other people (Snarey & Vaillant, 1985).

Researchers who recognised early on that the non-cognitive aspects of intelligence were also important began quantifying what provided the greatest predictor of success. The concept of Emotional Intelligence was first introduced by Daniel Coleman in his 1995 book. Goleman was a Harvard-trained psychologist and science writer for the New York Times, whose specialty was brain and behavior research.

Emotional Intelligence (EQ or EI) is essentially the ability to recognise, manage, and use your emotions in positive and constructive ways. It’s also about recognising the emotional states of others and engaging them in ways that feel good to all and create mutual safety, trust, and confidence. The construct of EQ refers to the individual differences in the perception, processing, regulation, and utilisation of emotional information. As these differences have been shown to have a significant impact on important life outcomes (e.g., mental and physical health, work performance and social relationships), this is an area worth paying attention to and improving where possible.

The 4 Main Aspects of EQ

EI_chart

Emotional Intelligence includes four main aspects, including:

➢ Self awareness

  • Emotional self-awareness – reading one’s own emotions and recognising their impacts, using “gut sense” or intuition to guide decisions
  • Accurate self-assessment – knowing one’s strengths and limits
  • Self-confidence – a sound sense of one’s self-worth and capabilities

➢ Self management

  • Emotional self-control – keeping destructive emotions and impulses under control
  • Transparency – displaying honesty and integrity; trustworthiness
  • Adaptability – flexibility in adapting to changing situations or overcoming obstacles
  • Achievement – the drive to improve performance to meet a standard of excellence
  • Initiative – readiness to act and seize opportunities
  • Optimism – seeing the upside of events

➢ Social awareness

  • Empathy – sensing others’ emotions, understanding their perspective, and taking an active interest in their concerns
  • Organisational awareness – reading the currents, decision networks, and politics at the organisational level
  • Service – recognising and meeting follower, client or customer needs

➢ Relationship Management  

  • Inspirational leadership – guiding and motivating with a compelling vision
  • Developing others – bolstering others’ abilities through feedback and guidance
  • Influence – wielding a range of tactics for persuasion
  • Change catalyst – initiating, managing and leading in a new direction
  • Conflict management – resolving disagreements
  • Building bonds – cultivating and maintaining a web of relationships
  • Teamwork and collaboration – cooperation and team building

The Benefits of High EQ

Individuals with a high EQ are able to quickly and dependably bring stress levels into balance, can remain emotionally aware and harness emotions. They are also able to effectively send and receive nonverbal cues, engage in joyous, playful activity with others, and resolve conflict in ways that build trust. Emotional Intelligence has been shown to be linked to success life, as it facilitates improved, authentic relationship within and with others – our boss, colleagues, team members, clients, suppliers, family and friends.

Emotional-IntelligenceCan EQ be taught?

Absolutely. There are many training programs available today that are giving individuals the opportunity to increase their emotional intelligence and enjoy the benefits. In a study by Nelis et al. (2009), study participants were divided into two groups.  One group received an EI training of four group sessions of 2-1/2 hours each.  The other group did not receive any training.  After the treatment was completed, the training group showed a significant increase in emotion identification and emotion management compared to the control group.  Six months later, the training group still had the same improvement on emotion identification and emotion management.   The control group showed no change.

Tips for Increasing the Self-Awareness component of EQ

A great start-point for developing your EQ is to start with your self-awareness. Here are ten things that lead to increased self-awareness:

  1. Become aware and mindful of how you are feeling in the moment.
  2. Name the emotions and feelings that arise, both the surface and deeper ones
  3. Notice when your feelings and mood change – say if you find yourself getting upset or excited.
  4. Ask yourself why this might be the case. Go deeper than you’re initial thoughts (e.g. it being someone or something’s fault) until you find the what’s within your control to change.
  5. Become conscious of the impact of your feelings and emotions on your thoughts and consequent behaviour – if you notice they lead to unhelpful reactions or behaviours, do something to change that
  6. Be open to feedback – while it’s important to know your own thoughts and feelings about your communication and performance, it’s ok to receive feedback from others and take what’s helpful from that
  7. Reflect on your own experiences – failures are a great way of increasing self-awareness and learning
  8. Undertake 360-degree feedback – from your colleagues, direct reports and manager(s) (sometimes suppliers and customers if applicable)
  9. Take action on the feedback you receive – if an area of development is highlighted, decide what you need to do (e.g. do a course, read the literature, work with a coach, etc.) and do it
  10. Evaluate your outcomes – with the feedback you received, and the action you’ve taken, evaluate how you went and if further adjustment is required. This may lead to further action.

 

References:

Goleman, D. (1995). Emotional intelligence. New York: Bantam.

Nelis, et al. (2009).  Increasing emotional intelligence: (How) is it possible?   Personality and Individual Differences 47(1):36-41.

Miao, C., Humphrey, R. H., & Qian, S. (2017). Are the emotionally intelligent good citizens or counterproductive? A meta-analysis of emotional intelligence and its relationships with organizational citizenship behavior and counterproductive work behavior.  Personality and Individual Differences, 116, 144-156.

O’Boyle, E. H., Jr., R. H. Humphrey, et al. (2011). The relation between emotional intelligence and job performance: A meta-analysis. Journal of Organizational Behavior,32(5), 788-818.

Snarey, J. R., & Vaillant, G. E. (1985). How lower- and working-class youth become middle- class adults: The association between ego defense mechanisms and upward social mobility. Child Development, 56(4), 899-910.

 

 

Exploring the world of Anti-Depressant Medication

antidepressants_1673710c

Do I really need anti-depressants?

Are anti-depressants effective?

Which is the best anti-depressant?

What other options do I have?

When it comes to the topic of anti-depressants, there are many questions and viewpoints that tend to come out. As a psychologist I am unable to prescribe “psychotropics” (medication for mental health issues), however many of my clients are either current, past or potential future takers of psychotropics. So, I’m often talking to my clients about this very topic, and exploring this world with the facts on hand helps individuals make the best decision for them in any given time of their life.

Last week I attended a professional development seminar run by the Australian Psychological Society (APS) on psychotropics. The guest speaker was Chris Alderman, who is a senior lecturer at the University of South Australia and editor for a pharmacology journal; a very knowledgeable man who’s PhD was on pharmacological treatment of PTSD in war veterans. The information I’m sharing in this article is a combination of the key learnings I took from Chris’ seminar as well as knowledge I’ve gained over the years in this profession.

In the Australian National Health Survey, Australian households reported that 19% of adults were using medication (either prescribed medication and/or vitamins/herbal supplements) for their mental wellbeing. Of these 27% reported using anti-depressants, 23% used sleeping tablets, and 10% said they used medication for anxiety. Anti-depressant medications are the most common psychotropic.

When it comes to the anti-depressant conversation there are a number of things to consider:

  • Is an anti-depressant really needed?
  • How should I feel about taking anti-depressant medication?
  • What is the best anti-depressant and dosage for the individual?
  • What are the potential adverse reactions to the medication (side effects)?
  • What interactions could there be between the anti-depressant and other drugs?
  • What is the risk:benefit ratio?
  • What are the compliance considerations?
  • Are they addictive?
  • What is the withdrawal/half life process when it’s time to come off a drug?
  • Are their other options for treating depression?
  • What is the best way to talk about it with a GP?

So firstly, do you need an anti-depressant? The answer to this is likely to be less straight-forward than yes/no. It depends on your symptoms, circumstances, medical history and more. The best person to ask if your GP. I’ve heard many people tell me their GP was almost too happy to give them a prescription for anti-depressants, and made their own decision to try other things before going down that path. Ultimately, it’s your mind and body, so do your research, consult those with accurate, up-to-date knowledge and be willing to try a few things to get the improvement you’re seeking.

anti-depressants no shameIf you do take anti-depressants, there’s nothing to be ashamed about. Like I mentioned earlier, you’re in good company with many other Australians. It’s not a sign of defeat, or being weak, or lazy. They are there to help you get back on track. You wouldn’t feel the same about taking a needed medication for a physical illness, so recognise the fact you’re helping yourself and feel good about that.

When it comes to the treatment of depression, there are a number of options available including:

  • SSRIs (“selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors”) -these act on a chemical in the brain called serotonin. The SSRIs include drugs such as Prozac, Zoloft, and Paxil.
  • “Tricyclic” antidepressants - chemical compounds used primarily as antidepressants. TCAs were first discovered in the early 1950s and marketed later in the decade. They are named after their chemical structure, which contains three rings of atoms. E.G. Amitriptyline (Elavil), Amoxapine, Clomipramine (Anafranil), Desipramine (Norpramin), Doxepin (Sinequan), Imipramine (Tofranil), Nortriptyline (Pamelor), Protriptyline (Vivactil)
  • Non-selective MAOIs - chemicals that inhibit the activity of the monoamine oxidase enzyme family. They have a long history of use as medications prescribed for the treatment of depression. They are particularly effective in treating atypical depression. E.G. Isocarboxazid (Marplan) Phenelzine (Nardil)
  • Psychotherapy – anything from counselling,  Cognitive-Behaviour Therapy (CBT) to Mindfulness-based therapies and other things more outside the box like Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP), Hypnosis and Emotion Freedom Technique (EFT) just to name a few. Under our Medicare system, you can access Medicare funding for up to 10 sessions with a psychologist each year, so help from a registered, understanding and experienced psychologist (like me!) is accessible to all.
  • Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT) – yes, it’s still an available treatment, and for those with the most severe and treatment-resistant depression, it’s quite effective to improve mood. There are many things to consider before taking this course of action, and you can discover more about ECT here.
  • “Augmented therapy” (lithium, liothyronin, pindolol) – often used alongside another anti-depressant medication, these types of psychotropics can be used to improve the effectiveness of the drug they augment. Read more here.
  • Natural or herbal supplements –  St John’s Wort is the primary one with an evidence base for its effectiveness although there are others as well. Best to consult a naturopath or qualified herbalist for what options are available and are safe to use with other medications

A really interesting point raised during Chris Alderman’s presentation was about which anti-depressant was the best. I found it surprising to learn that based on all the research to date, there is no significant difference in efficacy between any of the anti-depressants. They all work about the same (they all have an approximately 1/3 chance of working), whether they are older ones (like Prozac) or newer ones. When it comes to selecting the best anti-depressant, a GP or psychiatrist has to take many things into consideration, and Prof Alderman’s advice is expect to trial up to 3 different anti-depressants before finding the one that’s right for you.

A major concern for most people, and rightly so, is the potential for adverse or side-effects. All anti-depressants have side effects. If you look at the packaging and read the adverse reaction warning list, it’s mighty long. The most common reactions include gastrointestinal symptoms (e.g. diarrhoea, constipation, nausea), sleep disturbance, weight fluctuations, and loss of interest in sex. For some people, a side effect is suicidal ideation. This is where the concept of risk:benefit ratio comes in, as an individual has to decide if the side effects are tolerable to gain the benefit of the anti-depressant. So if there is more risk or discomfort, than reward for taking the medication, most people will stop taking the drug. This article is a good read on this point.

If you’re taking other medications, it’s vital your prescribing doctor has duly considered any interaction effects between those medications and an anti-depressant. Some things can simply not be combined, or produce very unpleasant symptoms. If there’s a short-term introduction of drugs (e.g. at the dentist, pre- and post-surgery) and you’re on anti-depressants, you may need to ask the dentist/surgeon/doctor if there are any possible interaction effects that need to be taken into consideration.

One of the biggest frustrations doctors have is non-compliance. The reality is most people will forget to take their medication from time to time. Some people don’t give the medication a chance to do it’s thing. For most anti-depressants there’s a 6-12 week ramp up period for the full effects of the drug to occur. A lot of patience is required. Good doctors inform their patients of this, and arrange follow up consultations to check in on how the patient is doing with their medication, and if any adverse effects have occurred.

So, are anti-depressants addictive? Antidepressants aren’t addictive in the same way substances like alcohol and heroin are. Those abusing antidepressants do not experience the cravings that other drugs cause. Most consider these drugs non-addictive. Others point to the withdrawal symptoms of antidepressants as evidence that a dependence can form, however those symptoms can be minimised if a monitored, GP-directed protocol for withdrawal is followed. Some anti-depressants are extremely unpleasant to simply go cold turkey on, and it can be dangerous. So ask your GP what the process of coming off of any medication is expected to be like.

maxresdefaultChris Alderman had a great piece of advise for people when talking to their GP about anti-depressants, in the form of 5 questions:

  1. What are all the names this medicine goes by?
  2. Why are you prescribing me this medicine? Or, What is it’s purpose?
  3. What should I expect to feel when I take this medicine?
  4. I’m already taking X medication(s), will this medication be alright with these others?
  5. I have X medical condition(s), so will this new medicine have an adverse effect on my condition(s)?

I think this is an invaluable strategy for making an informed decision, and making sure your busy doctor is taking everything into consideration when writing you out a prescription. Research information for yourself, get a second opinion if you think you’d like one, and consider combining any drug therapy with psychotherapy. Anti-depressants are not a ‘cure’ for depression, but a way of helping manage the symptoms so you can get life back on track, and sometimes the best way to do this is learn how to get your brain to work better for you.

An Alternative Perspective

There is conflicting perspectives with the mainstream view that anti-depressant medication is safe and necessary. The following is a different perspective that has valid research to support it’s part in the debate and if you would like to do more of your own research, you may like to start with the documentary Who Cares in Sweden: http://www.whocaresinsweden.com/en/

The three main problems with antidepressant medications from this alternate perspective is:

  1. Drug companies do not disclose the true incidence of the unwanted effects.   They are serious and one cannot know who will fall victim to them.
  2. There is the assumption that the drugs are beneficial, but RCTs (meta analyses) show poor evidence of benefit. Often the improvement is negligible in comparison with a placebo treatment.
  3. There is little disclosed about the true addictive nature of these medications.One study showed that after 5 years, 40% are still taking them.  Either they did not work so they are still on them; or they are addicted and cannot stop.  Since they are given to children they may be on them for 50+ years.  What will the effects be?  And many young women will be stuck on them when getting pregnant, risking birth defects (heart risk).

So why take them, given the risk / benefit profile?

In the USA one in 13 adults are on anti-depressant medication.  Prozac is like an amphetamine, and the other SSRIs are derivatives of prozac.  A side effect of amphetamine use is depression.  So using ADM has the side effect of more depression.  “Treatment Resistant Depression” increased in 10 years from 15 – 20% to 40%.  Treatment resistant depression blames the patient, when it should really be called “ineffective treatment,” putting the blame on the drug.

There is much to consider when it comes to considering your own mental health or that of someone you love or treat, it’s best to complete your own research and make a truly informed decision.

If you have any questions about this article, please post your comments below. Alternatively, you can contact me at miriam@miriamhenke.com for further information.

Adjusting to Change and Building Resilience

spotlightchangeChange and it’s many faces

Change. It’s an inevitable as death and taxes. And yet many of us find change to be challenging and can throw us into a state of turmoil. Yes, there are some reading this who would say they’re great with change, and yet I imagine if you’re one of those people it may be more like positive change being welcome. What about change that’s outside of your control? That’s going to make your life more challenging? Change of your health, financial or marital status?

Change is not just things being different or having new experiences. Change is also our experience when adversity strikes. When things go wrong, or something happens we don’t ask for.

The field of Positive Psychology has specifically sought to answer how we as humans can better cope with change, and even thrive through it. The concept of resilience has been a major part of this discussion, and in particular, what mental traits or type of mindset allows people to be transition through change well or bounce back quickly after adversity occurs.

depression-sillhouette-735-0525cfdb00506a249a05258ecfe57b5dHow to tell if you’re not coping

Coping is a personal and subjective thing. It is more than just ‘getting by’, it’s our ability to still perform, function and be mentally and emotionally ok through the process of change. So how can you tell if you’re really not coping?

There are many signs and symptoms of poor coping, and you may notice some of these can also be signs associated with chronic stress:

  • Fatigue, exhaustion or lower energy than normal
  • Being emotionally sensitive, irritative, lashing out or overreacting
  • Difficulty concentrating, easily distracted
  • Significant change in character – just not being your normal self
  • Poor or disrupted sleep, or excessive sleep
  • Appreciate things less, complain more
  • Jumping to conclusions or assuming the worst is going to happen
  • Feeling run down, drained or even feeling wound up, lots of nervous tension
  • Frequent crying, leaning on others to feel ok or be reassured
  • Make risky choices, poor decisions
  • Increased use or abuse of substances (alcohol, tobacco, marijuana, prescription medication or illicit drugs)
  • Performance drop at work, increase absence/sick leave
  • Impaired memory – forgetting/missing meetings, deadlines, commitments

If you experience one or two of the above, you’re probably coping ok and might have times where your stress levels get a bit high for short periods. However, if you can see many of these symptoms in yourself (or recognise them in someone you care able), these can be pretty serious if they go on long-term. Chronic stress or poor coping abilities can be a precursor to mental illnesses, such as depressive or anxiety-based disorders. Prevention is best, but early intervention is important so things don’t become debilitating.

What is a resilient mindset?

Resilience is “the positive capacity of people to cope with stress and adversity” (Masse, 2009). What a resilience mindset looks like has been a major focus of research within the positive psychology movement for the last 20 years or so and some really useful advice has come from the discoveries in the research. I’ll simplify the jargon and keep the good advice nice and simple:

  1. Nurture strengths and downplay deficits – focus on your capabilities and not overly focus on what your weaknesses are (this is not to say don’t work on your weaknesses, but rather don’t let what you’re not good at bring you down)
  2. Be self-aware – know what’s going on in your body and in your mind. If you’re not functioning well, acknowledge it and then proactively do something about it.
  3. Focus on what you can control, rather than what you can’t – there’s literally no point stressing about what’s out of your control; rather, identify what is within your control and focus on that – it’s much more empowering!
  4. Speak up – a burden shared is a burden halved. Use your social support and talk about what your worries and stresses are. Let your loved ones talk you through it or just be an empathetic sounding board. If you’re not sure if your friends or family are helpful, there are many great professionals who can fit the bill, such as psychologists, counsellors, life coaches, social workers and even a GP
  5. Become more optimistic – the research has clearly shown that those who are more optimistic and see the glass as half-full are more likely to be resilient and cope better with change. In order to become more optimistic, read below about the 3P’s to challenge any pessimistic thinking that’s bringing you down

The 3 P’s

Research has shown that there are 3 key ways in which Optimisits differ from Pessimists. This is where the 3 P’s were developed, based on these key differences.

  1. Permanence – pessimists will view a change or adversity as always being a problem or affecting them, they can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. Whereas, optimists will see it as temporary, transient or understand that things will get better with time
  2. Pervasiveness - pessimists will perceive a change or adversity as being pervasive, in that if affects all aspects of life (one thing affects everything). Optimists instead view it as specific to the part of their life it affects, without losing any sense of perspective or appreciation in other areas of their life
  3. Personal – pessimists take the change or adversity personally, believing it’s a personal attack or that it’s their bad luck happening again. Optimists will see the adversity or change as being something that’s happened but isn’t a reflection on them, they don’t take it personally and understand that this situation is not unique to them.

Using the 3 P’s, by asking yourself:

Is this Permanent? (Will it really matter in a week? A month? A year?)

Is this Pervasive? (Will it impact on my family life? My social scene?)

Is this Personal? (Is it really about ME as a person or is it a work/uni/friends problem)?

Coach Yourself & Others to Better Health with Health Coaching & NLP!

Healthy habits add up!

Improving coping and resilience with good habits

Beyond mindset or perspective-taking, resilience is also supported by common sense habits that are healthy for our minds and body’s. This includes:

  • Exercise regularly
  • Eat a balanced, nutritious diet
  • Get enough sleep
  • Take time out to relax and recharge your batteries
  • Connect to others, a purpose and/or to your spirituality
  • Practice the art of gratitude
  • Problem-solve as well as emotionally support and soothe yourself
  • Spend time in nature
  • Learn to switch off effectively between work and home

With change as inevitable as it is, and given resilience is a desirable quality in both professional and personal environments, there are many reasons to develop and build up your skills and habits that are good for you. Some will take practice and some trial and error, but engaging in them a little bit each day will go a long way.

If you have any questions, would like further resources or have comments on this blog, you’re invited to either contact me directly at miriam@miriamhenke.com, or add your comment to this blog!

References:

Masten, A. S. (2009). Ordinary Magic: Lessons from research on resilience in human development. Education Canada, 49(3): 28-32

 

Child Custody, Domestic Violence and Family Law in Australia: A Spotlight on Donna’s Research

Donna Roberts is currently in the write up stage of her PhD thesis (at the University of Adelaide), looking at child custody, domestic violence and family law in Australia. Her research includes an examination of published legal judgements around the application of the rebuttable presumption of equal shared parental responsibility; interviews with mothers whose children have contact with their violent, abusive fathers; and a survey of young adults who experienced parental separation prior to their 16th birthday about their experiences of contact with their non-resident parent.

For most separating couples, the decision about who looks after the children and the time they spend time with each parent is decided between themselves without intervention from the family law system. For other couples, mediation or legal advice can be useful, however for a small number of couples, usually less than 5%, involvement with the family law system occurs.

 

domestic-violence-infographic-dataDomestic violence – what do we know?

Current statistics show that 1 woman in 3, over the age of 15 years who has ever had an intimate partner, has been exposed to at least one form of violence. Overwhelmingly, the perpetrators are men, and the victims are women and children. It is acknowledged that women also perpetrate domestic violence.

 

Domestic violence – what is it?

It is a pattern of behaviours that intersperses coercive and controlling behaviours with physical violence in order to gain and maintain control of an intimate partner. It includes emotional and psychological abuse, physical violence, sexual abuse, financial abuse, and threats of physical and sexual abuse.

 

Domestic violence – what are the impacts?

For the (predominantly) women and children subjected to these behaviours, the impacts are many and varied, and include PTSD, depression, and anxiety. Children may ‘act out’ or become withdrawn, and have difficulties at school.

 

Separating from an abusive partner

Research and statistics show that separation is one of the most dangerous times for women who are in a relationship with a violent, abusive man. Thirty per cent of femicides (murders of women) occur at or around the time of separation. Some women will report their partners to police, others may apply for an intervention order (also known as an AVO) in order to protect themselves and their children, others still will leave him and take no legal action.

 

LittleGirl-in-Courtroom-725x4252Family law

This is governed by the Family Law Act 1975, which has been amended several times, including 2006 and 2011. It is the legislation that determines divorce, division of property, and child contact (previously known as custody).

Within Part VII of the Act is a rebuttable presumption of equal shared parental responsibility. The Act states that it is in the child/ren’s best interests for their parents to share responsibility for their upbringing, however, this presumption is rebutted i.e. does not apply if there are “reasonable grounds to believe” that family violence and/or child abuse has occurred. This presumption, if ordered, requires the parents to discuss and come to agreement on the major long-term issues concerning the children, including their education, and their healthcare.

It should also be noted that Section 121 of the Family Law Act prevents participants from discussing their experiences of the system at any time, for any reason. This ostensibly is to protect the children of the parents who have litigated.

 

Expectations

Mothers who have left relationships with violent, abusive men, sometimes at the behest of child protection services, may find themselves drawn into the family law system, either because their ex-partner makes an application to spend time with the children, or because they realise that spending time with their father is not good for the children, and they want the children protected.

 

Donna’s research

Donna has found that judges in the Federal Circuit Court (previously the Federal Magistrates Court) are still applying the presumption even in the face of clear evidence of family violence having occurred in the relationship. Over 100 cases were examined, of which 72 (65%) had evidence of an AVO, and the presumption was applied in 15 cases. Judges making the order for equal shared parental responsibility even in cases in which the judge acknowledged the severity of the violence the mother and child/ren had been exposed to

For mothers whose children are ordered by the court to spend time with their violent, abusive fathers, there is considerable distress for both the mothers and the children. In some cases, the mothers have lost custody of the children to the father, despite credible evidence of his abuse of her and the children.

For young adults, where there was violence and abuse, or substance abuse issues in the parental relationship, and they were court ordered to spend time with their father, they did not enjoy the contact, and a significant number of them have little to no contact with their fathers now that they are adults. One participant stated “I should never have been made to see my father after my parents separated.”

 

Busting myths around domestic violence and child contact

Within society is the pervasive myth that the family courts are biased against men. The research consistently shows that when men ask, they will get it in 70% of cases, with violent, abusive men twice as likely to file for custody as non-abusive men.

Another common myth is that women make false allegations of domestic violence in order to gain the ‘upper hand’ in custody battles. The research shows that when women report violence and abuse, they are more likely to have a worse outcome than in cases where there was no domestic violence reported to the courts i.e. the courts will order that the children spend more time with the father accused of violence and in some cases, mothers will lose custody altogether.

AVOs are a source of another myth – that they are used as a tactical weapon in ordered to keep fathers out of children’s lives, however the research shows that women only apply for AVOs when they have been subjected to severe violence and abuse. It is important to note that section 68Q of the Family Law Act renders a state intervention order invalid. So, even in cases where an AVO prevents the father from being within a certain distance of the mother, and sometimes the children, the father can still have contact with the children, and spend time with them.

There is the belief held that violent men can still be good fathers, and, that children need their fathers. Men who used violence and abuse in their relationships cannot be ‘good’ fathers as their behaviour shows that they are unable to put anyone else’s needs before their own. They will often also abuse the children, with a 30-70% overlap of domestic violence and child abuse occurring in families.

If you have any questions for Donna, feel welcome to email her at donna.roberts@adelaide.edu.au.

Recognising and Treating PTSD

What is PTSD?

PTSD-Image-Gibson-feature-300x336According to BeyondBlue, Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is “a particular set of reactions that can develop in people who have been through a traumatic event which threatened their life or safety, or that of others around them. This could be a car or other serious accident, physical or sexual assault, war or torture, or disasters such as bushfires or floods. As a result, the person experiences feelings of intense fear, helplessness or horror.” PTSD affects about 12% of the Australian population in their lifetime, which is a significant number if you stop and think about it.

What are the signs?

Trauma can be experienced in a number of ways and can be the mental impact of a traumatic event at any stage of life. I’ve treated both children and adults with PTSD symptoms and diagnoses and it’s a challenging presentation. The key signs that someone may be experiencing PTSD, can include:

  • Re-living the traumatic event – This can happen through unwanted and recurring memories, often in the form of vivid images and nightmares. There may be intense emotional or physical reactions, such as sweating, heart palpitations or panic when reminded of the event.
  • Being overly alert or wound up – This can include sleeping difficulties, irritability and lack of concentration, becoming easily startled and constantly on the lookout for signs of danger.
  • Avoiding reminders of the event – This can include deliberately avoiding activities, places, people, thoughts or feelings associated with the event because they bring back painful memories.
  • Feeling emotionally numb – Often this results in the loss of interest in day-to-day activities, feeling cut off and detached from friends and family, or feeling emotionally flat and numb.

Often people with PTSD experience other mental health challenges either as a result of, or concurrent with their PTSD symptoms. These additional problems, most commonly depression, anxiety, and alcohol or drug use. It’s understandable that the fear response, being triggered as frequently as it is, can wear a person down and have them seek ways to numb the discomfort or self-medicate.

Studies show that people with PTSD often have atypical levels of key hormones involved in the stress response. For instance, research has shown that they have lower-than-normal cortisol levels and higher-than-normal epinephrine and norepinephrine levels — all of which play a big role in the body’s “fight-or-flight” reaction to sudden stress. (It’s known as “fight or flight” because that’s exactly what the body is preparing itself to do — to either fight off the danger or run from it.)

PTSD in Children: Signs and Symptoms

Both children and adults with PTSD have symptoms of stress, anxiety and depression that include any of the following:

Intrusive thoughts or memories of the event

  • unwanted memories of the event that keep coming back
  • upsetting dreams or nightmares
  • acting or feeling as though the event were happening again (flashbacks)
  • heartache and fear when reminded of the event
  • feeling jumpy, startled, or nervous when something triggers memories of the event
  • children may reenact what happened in their play or drawings

Avoidance of any reminders of the event

  • avoiding thinking about or talking about the trauma
  • avoiding activities, places, or people that are reminders of the event
  • inability to remember important parts of what happened

Negative thinking or mood since the event happened

  • persistent worries and beliefs about people and the world being unsafe
  • blaming oneself for the traumatic event
  • lack of interest in participating in regular activities
  • persistent feelings of anger, shame, fear or guilt about what happened
  • feeling detached or estranged from people
  • not able to have positive emotions (happiness, satisfaction, loving feelings)

Persistent feelings of anxiety or physical reactions

  • trouble falling or staying asleep
  • feeling cranky, grouchy, or angry
  • problems paying attention or focusing
  • always being on the lookout for danger or warning signs
  • easily startled

Treatments for PTSD

There are many treatment programs available for PTSD. When trauma first happens, in the first few weeks following most people recover on their own with the help and support of friends and family. As such, a diagnosis of PTSD and other treatments aren’t considered until about 2 weeks after a traumatic experience. The best thing is immediate help and support, however this isn’t always possible and some people don’t have the right support around them. About 25% of people who experience a traumatic event develop PTSD. If traumatic events occur often (e.g. childhood abuse, domestic abuse, living in a war zone) PTSD can become a pervasive, debilitating condition that makes the trauma feel real and present, even after the abuse or life threatening conditions are removed.

Effective treatments are available and these apply for both adults and children. Most involve psychological treatment (talking therapy), and medication can also be prescribed in some cases. Drug treatments are not recommended within four weeks of symptoms appearing unless the severity of the person’s distress cannot be managed by psychological means alone. Generally, it’s best to start with psychological treatment rather than use medication as the first and only solution to the problem.

Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy (CBT)

PTSD is categorised as a type of anxiety disorder, and CBT is one of the most evidence-based and common treatment programs used to treat both anxiety and PTSD. CBT is a structured psychological treatment which recognises that the way we think (cognition) and act (behaviour) affects the way we feel. As a psychologist, I seek to help clients to identify thought and behaviour patterns that are either making them more likely to become anxious, or stopping them from getting better when they’re experiencing anxiety. Being able to recognise unhelpful patterns that are contributing to anxiety, allows people to make changes to replace these with new ones that reduce anxiety and improve coping skills.

In PTSD, it’s common to find someone stuck in catastrophising thinking patterns. This means thinking the worst, believing something is far worse than it actually is, or anticipating things will go wrong. Using CBT, I help people to think that more realistically and focus on problem-solving, plus to systematically reduce the distress certain situations or things that cause anxiety or trigger flashbacks, so that fears can be faced and these situations be approached more rationally. This is called ‘exposure therapy’.

CBT techniques can include:

  • encouraging you to recognise the difference between productive and unproductive worries
  • teaching you how to let go of worries and solve problems.
  • teaching relaxation and breathing techniques, particularly muscle relaxation, to control anxiety and the physical symptoms of tension.

Time Line Therapy™ (TLT)

I utilise a set of techniques called Time Line Therapy™ that has helped a number of my clients with both PTSD and anxiety to reduce their emotional reactivity and find meaning from their experiences. Clients who are undergoing TLT treatment learn how to externalise and disassociate from traumatic experiences, find positive resources and coping strategies from within themselves, and let go of the emotional charge attached to specific events. I’ve found that letting go of the emotions of Fear, Horror/Terror, Overwhelm and Helplessness using TLT particularly effective in reducing or even completely overcoming the symptoms of PTSD.

Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR)

There is a kind of therapy called Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) that is used for PTSD. Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) is another type of therapy for PTSD. Like other kinds of counseling, it can help change how people react to memories of their trauma. With an EMDR-trainer counsellor, the client talks about their memories, while focusing on other stimuli like eye movements, hand taps, and sounds. For example, the therapist moves his or her hand, and the client follows this movement with their eyes.

EMDR has grown in popularity of the years and the evidence supporting it’s effectiveness does exist. At this time I am not EMDR trained, so if you’re looking to try EMDR, there are many good psychologists and other therapists who provide this service. Experts are still learning how EMDR works, and there is disagreement about whether eye movements are a necessary part of the treatment.

Group Therapy

Many people want to talk about their trauma with others who have had similar experiences; group therapy allows this to happen with a group of people who also have been through a trauma and who have PTSD. Sharing their story with others may help the person with PTSD feel more comfortable talking about their trauma. This can help them cope with their symptoms, memories, and other parts of their life. Given how important social support is for recovery, this can be one of the best actions to take, along with individual counselling/psychotherapy.

Group therapy helps build relationships with others who understand what a person has been through. It often includes learning how to deal with emotions such as shame, guilt, anger, rage, and fear. Sharing with the group also can help build self-confidence and trust. Ultimately it encourages people to focus on their present life, rather than feeling overwhelmed by the past.

Extra Support for Children with PTSD

Along with the above treatments, there are some extra forms of help and support that can be given to children with PTSD. Here is some help tips*:

  • Most kids will need a period of adjustment after a stressful event, so during this time, it’s important for parents, caregivers, teachers and loved ones to offer support, love, and understanding.
  • It can help to try to keep kids’ schedules and lives as similar as possible to before the event. This means not allowing the child to take off too much time from school or activities, even if it’s hard at the beginning.
  • Let them talk about the traumatic event when and if they feel ready. It’s important not to force the issue if they don’t feel like sharing their thoughts. Praise them for being strong when they do talk about it. Some kids may prefer to draw or write about their experiences. Either way, encouragement and praise can help them get their feelings out.
  • Reassure them that their feelings are typical and that they’re not “going crazy.” Support and understanding from those around them can help with processing difficult feelings.
  • Some kids and teens find it helpful to get involved in a support group for trauma survivors. Look online or check with your pediatrician or the school counsellor to find groups nearby.
  • Get professional help immediately if you have any concern that a child has thoughts of self-harm. Thoughts of suicide are serious at any age and should be treated right away.
  • Help build self-confidence by encouraging kids to make everyday decisions where appropriate. PTSD can make kids feel powerless, so parents can help by showing their kids that they have control over certain aspects of their lives. Depending on the child’s age, parents might consider letting him or her choose a weekend activity or decide things like what’s for dinner or what to wear.
  • Tell them that the traumatic event is not their fault. Encourage kids to talk about their feelings of guilt, but don’t let them blame themselves for what happened.
  • Stay in touch with caregivers. It’s important to talk to teachers, babysitters, and other people who are involved in your child’s life.
  • Do not criticise regressive behavior (returning to a previous level of development). If children want to sleep with the lights on or take a favorite stuffed animal to bed, it might help them get through this difficult period. Speak to a counsellor or the child’s therapist/psychologist if you need extra information or ideas.

Is PTSD a Life Sentence?

PTSD is certainly a challenging condition to treat, but that doesn’t mean it’s not recoverable. Sometimes it takes finding the right therapist, treatment protocol, support group or school to make it work. Sometimes it takes a number of years of consistent work with a therapist, deeper spiritual searching, undertaking self-help programs or a myriad of conditions to recover from PTSD, so the key is to not give up on the possibility of better mental health and keep looking until the right fit is found.

*Reference: http://kidshealth.org/en/parents/ptsd.html#

How to tell a loved one they need help

helping
Someone you know and care for isn’t doing so well. Perhaps you’ve noticed some changes in them, or they’ve confided in you that they’re unhappy, anxious, or even thought about suicide. Either way, you’re concerned and you know that them getting counselling or some other kind of mental health support is what they need. How do you tell them?
I myself have been in this situation with friends and family. It’s a touchy subject, because you’re confronting someone with the reality that they’re struggling in some way, people can get defensive. Some people don’t think they need help, or even worse, they think things like counselling are a waste of time. The last thing you want to do is upset someone, and yet if you say nothing you may not sleep so well.
Here are some tips to have that conversation with your loved one:
  1. “How do you feel you’re coping with everything” - Open the conversation about how the person feels they’re coping with the pressures in their life, or with a significant event that’s recently happened. By getting them to assess how they feel they’re doing, they’re more likely to recognise they have a problem.
  2. “What are you doing that’s helpful?” - Check in with them about what strategies they’re using to help themselves at this time. If the answer is alcohol or ‘nothing’, then you can be sure they’re in need of some other solutions.
  3. “Have you thought about seeing a counsellor/psychologist/coach?” – Ask if has crossed their mind that seeing a professional would be a good thing to do. It opens up the idea as an option for them.
  4. “This is a tough situation I went through, and this is how I got better” – Sharing a person story of a challenging time in your life (if you feel comfortable) and how you dealt with it shows a little vulnerability and shows that it’s ok and even advantageous to acknowledge problems where they are and get help. If you’re thinking of recommending a specific counsellor or psychologist, you can mention how that professional made a difference to you.
  5. “What do you feel you need right now?” - Empower the person to verbalise what they think they need. Hopefully they’ll recognise that external support is worthwhile. You can gauge by their answer if you think they’ll get help or if they might need you to gently guide them in the right direction.helpful-words-for-someone-who-self-injures
Here’s some tips of what NOT to do or say:
  • “You should get help, you’re not coping on your own.” – While it might seem like a perfectly reasonably thing to say, surprisingly it’s not that effective. Why? Firstly, it’s a matter of opinion what someone should or shouldn’t do. Secondly, to make a judgement about how well someone is or isn’t coping without exploring it with them first, is really making an assumption.
  • “Get help or else” - While you may feel at your wits end about someone’s mental health and how it’s affecting both you and them, giving ultimatums are distressing and lack empathy. Coming from a more compassionate angle, expressing how they are affecting you and giving them options is likely to keep a level of rapport between you and them.
  • “If you don’t get help, then you’re just being stupid/stubborn” – Even if this is how you’re feeling about the situation, no-one likes to suffer and keep themselves in a dark place. However, there are likely many factors weighing in on their mind and for some people they believe that getting help is a sign of weakness or they don’t trust people they don’t know. Perhaps it would be better to find out what their resistance is against getting help, listen to what they say, and see if you can see it from their perspective, before gently shifting them to look at it from a different perspective.
While you have the best of intentions suggesting they get help, or recommend a specific practitioner to them, it’s not up to you whether they take it up or not. Similarly, you cannot change someone who’s not ready or willing to change. Just having a conversation about how they think they’re doing and identifying where they aren’t coping so well will already be helping them.
People in need want to feel heard, understood, respected and cared for. If you come from a place of love and genuine concern, and leave out pressuring them, you’ll already be making a difference.If they’re ready to take action and see someone, you may like to offer to come with them, or to catch up with them after their appointment so they can debrief with you. Providing choices can help a person feel empowered.
depression-help-someone-400x400And if someone doesn’t take action straight away, don’t assume your conversation hasn’t had an impact. Some people take time to let seeds germinate, and may take action down the track. It’s ok to check in with them from time to time (not every day, or nag) to see how they’re feeling and where they’re at.If you’re not sure how to approach someone about getting help or extra support, feel welcome to ask your questions in the Comments box below and I’ll give you some extra tips.
Useful Contacts:

Lifeline 13 11 14

Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467

Kids Helpline 1800 55 1800

MensLine Australia 1300 78 99 78

BeyondBlue 1300 22 46 36

Have you been asking “What the heck is going on?!” lately?

Written by Donna Roberts, Master Practitioner of NLP, TLT & Hypnosis, Sports Injury Massage Therapist, Reiki Master, Seichim Practitioner, Advanced Soul Realignment Practitioner and Miriam’s admin guru.

I don’t know about you, but I have been experiencing some pretty “heavy shit” lately, including ending up in hospital for 3 days, having my daughter home sick for a week, and my partner dealing with some quite serious health issues as well!

As stressful as it has been, I can say that there are reasons behind it! Allow me to explain…

releasing

2016 is a Universal 9 year (2+0+1+6=9), which, in numerology, is all about endings, and letting go of and clearing out old ways of doing and Being. This current cycle started in 2008, a Universal 1 year (2+0+0+8 =10; 1+0 =1), and we are now in the process of wrapping up things that were started back then.

September is a 9 month and, in a 9 Universal year is ALL about letting go, and clearing out! We had several 9-9-9-9 days in September e.g. the 9th September is a quadruple 9 day – the 9th day of the 9th month in a 9 Universal year, all of which adds up to 9. The same applied to the 18th and the 27th September.

Playing into all of this has been several planets in retrograde (appearing to move backwards, relative to Earth) including:

-       Mercury (30 August to 22 September) – Mercury is the planet of communication and travel, and this particular retrograde, the 3rd of 2016, was about overhauling our personal communication, both with ourselves and with others, in order to get clear on who we are at a Soul level

-       Pluto (from 18 April to 27 September) which was all about releasing old hurts and embracing past experiences, and healing and clearing these old wounds

-       Neptune (from 14 June to 20 November) which is about rediscovering our connection to Source/Spirit/The Universe and aligning our hearts with our heads so that we can “walk our talk”

-       Uranus (16 August to 29 December) which is about being spontaneous and doing things we have not done before, perhaps changing up our appearances, and embracing flexibility, being able to adapt to change with a moments notice

-       Chiron (27 June to 1 December) – Chiron is an asteroid, representing the archetype of the Wounded Healer. This retrograde is about healing our Inner Child, bringing up old patterns and pain from childhood to be released and cleared.

supermoon

We are also experiencing 3 super full moons in October, November and December. This month’s full moon on 15 November is going to be the largest full moon since January 1948! A super full moon is one that appears bigger and brighter than a ‘normal’ full moon, and occurs because the moon’s orbit is elliptical, and on one side the moon is about 48,000km closer to Earth than the other side of the orbit. The effects of the moon on humans are well documented – the term ‘lunatic’ comes from lunar, meaning moon!

As you can see, we have been energetically supported in releasing old wounds and old hurts, the old ways of doing and Being, and to overhaul almost every aspect of ourselves as we travel through this 9 Universal year, of endings and letting go.

Even though October is a 1 month, of new beginnings, it is taking place in the 9 Universal year, which means that we are in the process of setting the intentions and lay the foundations for the coming energy decade, starting in 2017 (2+0+1+7=10; 1+0=1).

The 11/2 energy of November is all about mastery (11 is a Master number) and duality (the 2), so we are mastering the dualities within us, particularly the Divine Masculine and the Divine Feminine, as well as the ‘light’ and the ‘dark’. Polarity and duality are good! There is a lot of talk about “the Shadow side” however, we cannot have good without bad, light without dark, positive without negative, and so these ‘shadow’ characteristics are in fact neither good nor bad, positive nor negative, they just are, and they are part of what makes us who we are, and as such should be embraced.

For those who are unaware of the energies that abound, 2016 has been a quite horrific year! Even for those of us who work with the energies, and are aware of the planetary retrograde cycles etc, we have also had to do our work – letting go of old habits, healing from the past, ditching Karma (where Karma is the consequences of choices we make, not some malicious idea of revenge!), and aligning ourselves with who we are at a Soul level, to bring our Soul’s Divine Gifts into their full expression.

So, the take home message is basically – do the work! Release everything that is no longer serving your Highest Good, and embrace the New You for the New Year!

“Yes, but HOW do I do the work?” I can hear you thinking! If you have realised that you still have some ‘stuff’ that you would like to let go of and/or deal with, I would recommend booking into see Miriam for some Time Line Therapy™, or if you are interested in knowing more about who you are at a Soul level, what your Gifts are, and what baggage you may have brought into this life, then a Soul Realignment™ reading and clearing with Donna is an option.

Could Combined Therapies be the way of the future in treating depression and anxiety?

Recently, I had an article I co-authored with fellow psychologists Taryn Lores and Anna Chur-Hansen published in the Advances of Mind-Body Medicine. This paper explores the interest the general population and those specifically with mood disorders have in a proposed new treatment strategy that combines psychological, mind-body therapies and nutritional approaches.

To read the full article, click on the below link:

Attitudes Towards Combining Psychological, Mind-Body Therapies and Nutritional Approaches for the Enhancement of Mood

Spring – the dreaded hayfever season

Written by Donna Roberts, Master Practitioner of NLP, TLT & Hypnosis, Massage Therapist, Reiki Master, Seichim Practitioner, Advanced Soul Realignment Practitioner and Miriam’s admin guru.

itsspringallergyseason

Spring has sprung of late – although with the recent downpours and gale force winds, one may be forgiven for thinking winter was still here! That said, there are signs of new life blossoming all around us, and with these beautiful blossoms comes … pollen which is the biggest trigger for allergies. When these tiny grains are released into the air by trees, grasses, weeds and flowers, they can get into the nose of someone who is allergic, and send their body’s defences haywire. The immune system mistakes the pollen for a dangerous substance, and releases antibodies to attack the allergen, leading to the release of histamines into the blood. These then trigger the runny nose, itchy eyes, sneezing and coughing that will be all too familiar if you have allergies.

It is important to remember that pollen can travel for many kilometres on the wind, and the pollen count tends to be much higher on breezy days. Rainy days, on the other hand, wash the allergens away.

Diagnosis of an allergy is usually done by a skin test, where a tiny amount of diluted allergens are placed on to the skin, and the skin pricked with a needle. Alternatively, a tiny amount of the diluted allergen is injected under the skin. A small red bump (a wheal or hive) will form at the site of the allergens that the person is allergic to.

skinpricktest

Treatment is usually via anti-histamines, which reduce the amount of histamine in the body, or via decongestants, which shrink the blood vessels in the nasal passageways to relieve congestion and swelling. Some products will combine both of these mechanisms. The issue with these treatments is that they are short acting, and need to be taken regularly to keep the symptoms at bay.

Other advice for managing allergies includes staying inside when the pollen count is high, keeping doors and windows closed; making sure air filters are regularly cleaned, and keeping corners in bookcases and the like, as well as vents where pollen can collect. Washing your hair after being outside is also useful, as allergens can get caught there. Vacuuming regularly, but wearing a mask, can also assist.

The big question is “is there a long term method that can help me with my allergies, rather than just treating the symptoms?” And, the answer is yes! There is an NLP process that can significantly reduce the symptoms of allergy, and in some cases, remove them completely, although for this to work, it is important to know the trigger for the allergy.

If you would like some help with your allergies, make an appointment to see Miriam today!

Feel crappy in Winter – could it be SAD?

Written by Donna Roberts, Master Practitioner of NLP, TLT & Hypnosis, Soul Realignment Practitioner and Miriam’s admin guru.

Get ready for winter 2014

This winter has been particularly cold and wet, apparently the coldest and wettest in 30 years. Each year we all go through a natural process of semi-hibernation or withdrawing from all usual activities. However, for some people their experience of winter goes beyond the normal pattern of withdrawal and becomes something worse. For some people, winter is hell. They find themselves feeling really low and flat, unhappy and irritable. If this is something you have experienced this winter and even in past winters, you may be suffering a condition called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).

What is S.A.D.?
Seasonal Affective Disorder is a sub-type of depression, which only affects people during the winter months. It is also known as Winter Depression, and generally the sufferer starts to feel better in the Spring, as the days warm up, get longer and nature blossoms. It is more common in women than in men, and onset typically occurs in young adulthood.

What are the causes of S.A.D.?

The exact cause is unknown, however, depression is more common during the winter months, and at higher latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere, leading doctors to believe that a lack of sunlight creates altered brain rhythms, leading to depression in some people. Generally, it is less common in Australia than in the sub-polar countries.

Most doctors think that a number of factors trigger S.A.D. including

  • genetic responses to sunlight – some animals such as bears hibernate during winter, and research suggests that reduced levels of sunlight also affects humans, with some people more susceptible than others
  • circadian rhythm – this is the “internal body clock”, located in the brain, and helps the body to regulate sleep/wake cycles. This regulation is dependant on sunlight, and so in some people, the shorter days of winter may disrupt their circadian rhythm and alter their brain function
  • altered brain regulation – melatonin is a hormone produced in the brain and body, and triggers sleep. It is produced in response to reduced light, and daylight switches off the production. The shorter hours of daylight may encourage greater production of melatonin, which in turn may trigger S.A.D.. Melatonin is also responsible for jetlag.

What are the symptoms of S.A.D.?

  • depression – which could include low mood, feeling sad, a sense of hopelessness, low motivation, irritability, low tolerance
  • anxiety – can manifest as irritability, which can in turn have a negative impact on relationships
  • lethargy – a lack of energy and enthusiasm
  • dietary changes – an increased appetite for carbohydrates, which would include lots of lovely, stodgy, winter puddings perhaps! Treacle sponge, sticky date pudding, bread and butter pudding …. Mmm yum! Don’t forget the custard!
  • Weight gain – damn those carbs!
  • Hypersomnia – the need for more sleep than normal
  • Loss of libido
  • Withdrawal from others – the human form of hibernation
  • Loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • The pattern follows the seasons – symptoms start in Autumn, get worse in Winter ease in Spring, and are completely gone in Summer

What treatments are available for S.A.D.? 

Self help options

  • Increased sunlight exposure – try to get outside every day, particularly if you work in a windowless place, even if it is only to eat your lunch. You can also increase the amount of sunlight that enters your home – keep the curtains open during the day, cut back bushes that block the light entering, and if possible, install skylights
  • Get some exercise – if it’s not raining, rug up and get outside for a walk. Regular exercise is an effective treatment for depression and anxiety
  • Look after yourself – make sure your sleeping and eating habits are good, and avoid excessive amounts of alcohol
  • Money and time permitting, a holiday in warmer climates is an option, although the UK is generally not a good choice!

Light therapy (phototherapy)  – this is the controlled use of artificial light that mimics the light spectrum. Daily sessions may range in duration from 20 to 60 minutes depending on the severity of the symptoms. Exposure to light therapy in the morning, around 6am,  seems to be the most effective in resetting the circadian rhythm. For most Australians, however, an increase in exposure to natural sunlight is relatively easy to achieve, and this should be tried before resorting to light therapy.

Medication – antidepressant drugs are an option, although they can take 2-3 weeks to get into your system before symptoms are alleviated, and for some people, the side effects are quite awful. Try the self-help or light therapy options first before considering if you need this option, and always talk to your GP when deciding which is the best course of treatment for you.