For those in recovery in the country’s northern states, the turning autumn leaves are as beautiful as they are foreboding. The change of seasons from spring and summer into fall and winter means less sunlight and activity outdoors. When the days begin to get significantly shorter, those who suffer from seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, know what’s in store. These challenges are amplified for people in recovery, but preparing for the months ahead can give everyone who experiences SAD a leg up on dealing with oncoming changes.
Seasonal affective disorder is a form of depression that comes about with the change of seasons. People often face SAD during cold and dreary winter months, especially in places where extreme weather occurs. The lack of sunlight and vitamin D can spark a bout of depression in those especially prone to mood disorders. Still, it can have an effect on those without any history or predisposition to depression as well.
Changes in sleep routine
Loss of interest in hobbies
It’s not unusual for those who struggle with substance misuse to have an undiagnosed mental illness, commonly referred to as a dual diagnosis. Addiction and depression frequently go hand-in-hand as people seek ways to self-medicate and deal with hard times and troubling emotions. Those in recovery may experience SAD unknowingly but will find themselves having a more challenging time dealing with cravings, negative thoughts, relapse triggers, and other things that can derail progress. The best way to prevent these potential roadblocks is to prepare for “SAD season” and make preemptive efforts to combat the oncoming side effects of the seasons changing.
Seasonal affective disorder can be difficult to diagnose in patients, but improving self-care as the seasons change can give those in recovery a way to combat depressive bouts as the cold and dark months approach.
Exercise: There’s truly a workout for everyone out there; the key is to find what works best to get those mood-boosting endorphins going as the body moves. Physical activity doesn’t have to be extreme or complicated to be effective, but its positive impact on the body will be felt almost immediately.
Vitamin D: The sun is the best source of vitamin D, which helps regulate mood stability and overall good health. A lack of this vital vitamin has also been shown to increase the risk of opioid addiction. Patients are urged to speak with their medical providers about supplementing vitamin D and making the most out of sunny winter days.
Light Therapy: While sunny winter days may be few and far between, a spectrum of light therapy boxes and dawn simulators exist to help people mimic the benefits of sunlight to help manage SAD.
Medication: Patients may want to consider speaking to their medical provider about antidepressant medication to combat SAD for more severe cases. The correct formulation can help those suffering from seasonal depression from fall until spring, although many experts suggest taking them year-round for optimal benefits.
Middlesex recovery is proud to serve the communities most affected by substance use disorder by providing evidence-based addiction treatment programs to enrolled patients. Our office-based outpatient facilities help people looking to overcome their addiction in a convenient, discreet, and effective manner with highly specialized and compassionate staff. Message or call us today to learn more about our treatment programs.