04 Feb Addiction and Seasonal Affective Disorder
Commonly known as the wintertime blues, seasonal affective disorder is a condition that affects millions of Americans each year. When the days get shorter and cold temperatures drive us indoors for the season, we all get a little cabin fever. Some people experience more severe physical and emotional symptoms with the change of season, and this can throw them off course, especially if they’re already struggling to overcome addiction.
What is Seasonal Affective Disorder?
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is actually a form of depression, a chemically-based mental disorder, brought on by the changing seasons. It can be brought on by any seasonal change, but is most common in the winter time, due in part to a drop in serotonin and melatonin levels at this time of year.
Those who are already struggling with mental conditions like depression, anxiety, or addiction are more at risk for SAD. The symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder are similar to those of depression, and include :
- Increased anxiety and depression
- Weight gain and food cravings
- A lack of energy
- Trouble concentrating
- Lost interest in activities and people
- General fatigue
How Does SAD Affect Addiction Recovery?
If you’re already struggling to keep your head above water in addiction recovery, even a little case of SAD can send you into a tail spin, especially if you don’t know the cause of your symptoms. Many addicts are also dealing with co-occurring disorders like depression and anxiety, and Seasonal Affective Disorder can aggravate these as well.
The feelings of sadness and hopelessness brought on by SAD can cause you to feel less enthusiastic about your recovery progress, which can put you at risk for relapse, or at least make sticking to the program more difficult.
Tips for Dealing With Seasonal Affective Disorder
The best way to keep Seasonal Affective Disorder from derailing your recovery is to be aware of its effects, and to recognize them if they crop up. If you do experience discomfort from SAD, get help right away, before it becomes a big problem. Make an appointment with a healthcare professional immediately. There are lots of ways you can boost your attitude and dispel the wintertime blues by making some small changes to your daily life:
- Let in the Light: One of the main reasons SAD causes hormonal changes in our bodies is because we’re deprived of nourishing sunlight. Open all the windows in your home and let in some light. Make it a point to go outside for a while each day, especially in the morning. If you feel really lousy, light therapy can be really helpful.
- Get Moving: It may seem redundant, but getting plenty of exercise is really a cure-all when dealing with mental disorders. The endorphins released by physical activity balance you out and make you feel great! Relaxation exercises like yoga can have an additional calming effect.
- Get Balanced: There are lots of supplements that have been shown to help with SAD, like melatonin and omega-3 fatty acids. Check with your doctor before beginning any supplements to make sure they won’t interfere with your other medications. If you’re really struggling with SAD, your doctor may prescribe an antidepressant for you.