Mental health issues and substance abuse are often deeply connected in the human brain. According to the NationalInstitute of Mental Health (NIMH), people who experience depression disorders, such as seasonal affective disorder are more likely to have a drug or alcohol abuse problem. As the days are shorter and the sunlight escapes our daily experience, the body can react with feelings of depression or sadness. To be clinically diagnosed with seasonal affective disorder or SAD, one must meet the full criteria of depression coinciding with specific seasons for at least 2years. Furthermore, seasonal depression must be more frequent than any non-seasonal depressions.

Recognizing the Symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder:

Desperation, lack of motivation to care for oneself, irritability, weight gain and a general feeling of hopelessness are all common symptoms of SAD. The causes of this debilitating disorder are varied and can be different for different types of people. Generally, the lack of sunlight can disrupt the body’s natural circadian rhythms and also reduce the amount of serotonin produced by the brain. Melatonin imbalances can also occur which can affect sleeping patterns and your overall mood.

For someone struggling with addiction, or even those currently going through recovery, SAD can be more common than an average person might experience. Many people who suffer from seasonal depression often self medicate, using alcohol or drugs to numb the pain, sadness and grief. When this persists for a period of time, an addiction is likely to physically develop in the patient. This makes it much more difficult to treat from a medical perspective, though it is not impossible.

The co-occurrence of substance abuse and a mental health disorder is commonly referred to as a dual diagnosis. This approach treats both the substance abuse disorder and the mental health issue simultaneously, which evidence suggests is the most successful treatment for curing both disorders. Unfortunately, many who experience these problems do not seek any help from trained professionals.

For those who get help through a substance abuse treatment program, SAD can pose unique challenges for recovering addicts.

The more time spent indoors, lack of sunlight and vitamin D, and other biological factors can negatively influence anyone who experiences depression. A recovering addict is more likely to experience a relapse during these times, so one should be conscious of psychological and physical changes that may come with the changing seasons.

Holidays can be particularly stressful time of the year for many people. This is especially true for addicts and those who are going through recovery from alcoholism or another substance abuse disorder. It is important to be mindful of your feelings and physiology during this time of year and get help from trained professionals if you need it.

Some helpful tips to combat the effects of SAD:

  • Eat a well-balanced, healthy diet.
  • Take a vitamin D supplement in combination with foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains and protein.
  • Avoid processed foods containing high amounts of salt, saturated fats and sugars.
  • Exercise regularly and maintain a regular sleeping schedule.

You can also simply try to get yourself out of the house. Go outside during the limited time the sun is out. Participate in activities and events that are enjoyable and fun. If you feel your symptoms worsening, do not be afraid or ashamed to ask someone for help.

The professionals at More Than Rehab are trained to treat a myriad of symptoms related to substance abuse and mental health issues. Help for you or a loved one is just one phone call away.  Be open and honest with yourself about your feelings, obstacles and goals in recovery from this potentially deadly disease.Sometimes when people do not seek help the problem only gets worse. Let us help you right away.

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