Substance use has been linked to the onset of SAD (seasonal affective disorder), a type of depression that aligns with seasonal patterns, typically worsening in the winter months when daylight is scarce. The symptoms of SAD mirror those found in other forms of depression and tend to recur annually during specific times of the year.
What Is Seasonal Affective Disorder?
Seasonal affective disorder is a form of depression that emerges with the changing seasons, normally manifesting at the start of fall. This condition often intensifies during early winter and usually subsides as the days become brighter during spring.
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A milder form of this condition, informally known as the winter blues, is characterized by a slight downturn in mood during the colder, darker months. While it’s common to feel somewhat subdued when spending more time indoors and days grow shorter, the winter blues do not significantly disrupt daily functioning.
SAD, by contrast, is a more severe depressive state that can impact every aspect of your life, including your emotions and thoughts. Despite its challenges, there are effective treatments for SAD that can help alleviate symptoms during these tougher seasons.
Seasonal Affective Disorder Symptoms
Seasonal affective disorder, also known as seasonal depression or winter depression, is categorized in DSM-5-TR (the latest revised edition of APA’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) as major depressive disorder with seasonal pattern.
This condition triggers depressive episodes during specific seasons, most frequently in the fall and winter due to reduced sunlight, and generally improves with the advent of spring. In the United States, January and February are often the most challenging months for those with SAD.
Although the symptoms of SAD are much more intense than the winter blues, it is nevertheless a manageable condition. Symptoms of SAD include:
- Persistent feelings of sadness or depressed mood.
- Marked loss of interest or pleasure in previously enjoyed activities.
- Appetite changes, usually eating more carbohydrates.
- Shift in sleep patterns, often sleeping excessively.
- Energy loss or increased fatigue, despite more hours of sleep.
- An uptick in restless physical activity, or slowed movements and speech observable by others.
- Feelings of worthlessness or undue guilt.
- Difficulty with concentration or decision making.
- Thoughts of death or suicide.
Although SAD can present at any age, it most commonly manifests in adults aged 18 to 30.
Links in Seasonal Affective Disorder and Substance Abuse
Individuals grappling with seasonal affective disorder may resort to self-medication, using substances like stimulants to counteract lethargy or alcohol to numb their distress. Conversely, prolonged substance abuse can precipitate SAD by disrupting the brain’s chemical balance, potentially leading to this and other mood disorders.
This intersection of SAD with substance dependency is known as a dual diagnosis or co-occurring disorder. Healthcare providers emphasize integrated treatment for both conditions to prevent one from exacerbating the other. Untreated SAD, for example, can intensify alcohol cravings and complicate recovery efforts.
Beyond this, those in recovery for substance abuse might find themselves more susceptible to SAD during the winter months. Data suggests a link between seasonal change and increased relapse rates, partially due to SAD’s peak during the holiday season – a time often rife with substance abuse triggers.
Substance Abuse & Seasonal Affective Disorder Treatment
Should you find your depression intensifying during the winter months, there are proactive steps you can take to disrupt patterns of substance abuse and mitigate the symptoms of SAD. The most effective self-care for seasonal affective disorder often includes a range of interventions.
Engage in light therapy
If natural light is scarce, especially during winter months, a light box or sunrise alarm clock can be good substitutes. These devices simulate sunlight, helping to diminish melatonin production while boosting serotonin levels, which can improve mood and reduce sleepiness.
Embrace fresh air
Venturing outdoors can help combat depression by increasing your vitamin D levels through natural light exposure. A brief walk in the morning can also help regulate your circadian rhythm, contributing to better sleep and overall well-being.
Pursue regular exercise
Exercise doesn’t have to be intense – gentle activities like yoga or Pilates can be done at home and offer both physical and mental benefits. These exercises provide the opportunity to practice mindfulness and can be instrumental in breaking negative cycles and concentrating your energies positively.
Consult with a therapist
Therapeutic interventions – especially CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) – have been proven effective in managing SAD and addiction. Therapy can offer new perspectives on your situation and offer coping strategies, potentially addressing deep-seated issues contributing to your current struggles.
Explore reading and writing
Distracting yourself with books can steer your mind away from negative thoughts. Additionally, journaling can be a therapeutic tool to document your emotions and identify triggers, aiding in the management of both addiction and depression.
SSRI antidepressants are often prescribed in conjunction with psychotherapy for treating SAD and addiction. Following a diagnosis, healthcare providers might also recommend supplements like vitamin D to help stabilize mood.
Try complementary and alternative therapies
Techniques like transcendental meditation and mindfulness can lower stress levels, which is particularly beneficial for addressing SAD symptoms and combating the stress that often underlies substance dependence.
Get Treatment for Substance Abuse at California Detox
Embark on a seamless recovery journey by first participating in our supervised medical detox program, designed to provide the most supportive start to inpatient rehab. Benefit from medications that streamline the withdrawal process and help control cravings. Once detox is complete, you can move into ongoing residential treatment at our beachside facility.
Our treatment plans are tailored to each individual, blending scientifically supported interventions with holistic methods to address addiction recovery comprehensively. Therapies offered may include:
- Psychotherapeutic approaches
- MAT (medication-assisted treatment)
- Group counseling
- Personalized one-on-one counseling
- Family therapy
- Holistic therapies
- Continued aftercare support
For prompt support and to learn more about our programs, call admissions today at 949.694.8305.