Recovery from addiction can be difficult, and many people don’t understand the obstacles you face when trying to get clean. One of these obstacles is seasonal affective disorder, a type of depression that affects your mood in different ways depending on the time of year. This condition makes recovery more difficult because it makes you prone to relapse during a depressive episode or just before winter starts again. This blog post will discuss how SAD affects addiction recovery and what you can do about it!

What is Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)?

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of seasonal depression that can make you feel worse at the same time of the year, usually in the winter months. It is caused by a lack of exposure to sunlight during the fall and winter months. This lack of light can cause changes in your body’s natural circadian rhythm that triggers depression symptoms such as sadness, hopelessness, anxiety, fatigue, social withdrawal, and irritability.

SAD can also be caused by a drop in serotonin (a brain chemical that affects mood) which is highly influenced by reduced sunlight. A change in the body’s melatonin levels can also play a role in causing SAD. 

SAD affects 1-2% of the population, while its milder form affects 10-20% of the people. 

Signs and symptoms of SAD

You can recognize SAD when you start to feel the following symptoms

  •  Drop in energy levels and motivation 
  • Craving carbohydrates, especially sweets or bread 
  • Lack of interest in activities that are usually enjoyable for you 
  • Feelings of hopelessness or depression 
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Frequent thoughts of self-harm, death, or suicide
  • Trouble sleeping at night
  • Weight loss or weight gain
  • Unexplained aches and pains
  • Increased anxiety and irritability 

Risk Factors Associated with Seasonal Affective Disorder

Anyone can struggle with SAD; however, some people tend to experience the disorder more than others. People at risk are;

  • Females. Three out four people who struggle with SAD are women
  • Those between the ages of 18 and 30
  • Those living in far north or south of the equator. This is because they experience less sunlight during winter 
  • Family history. Having relatives with other types of depression

How Can Seasonal Affective Disorder Lead to Relapse?

Relapse is a real possibility when dealing with any depression, and it’s easy to fall back into old habits during depressive episodes. If you have SAD or seasonal affective disorder, your mood can change how you think about recovery.

The disorder makes it more challenging to stay clean, as it’s harder to resist cravings when your mood is low, and there are no distractions from the cold weather outside.

SAD drains your energy, making you feel tired and unmotivated. It makes it harder for you to go to recovery meetings, or IOP sessions, or any arrangements that make recovery possible for you.

Feelings of loneliness and sadness can quickly take a toll on you and make you feel disconnected from all aspects of your life, from your relationships, social life, work, and school. 

SAD challenges your sense of self-worth, making you feel even worse about yourself.

It can make it seem like recovery is not worth the effort, making relapse an easy out to give up on things and sink back into old habits again.

Even after a long period of staying clean, SAD can still lead to relapse because of the need to seek satisfaction from unhealthy sources such as addictive substances, unhealthy food, social media, etc.

How to seek addiction treatment for SAD and Avoid relapse

There are things you can do to make yourself feel better

Recovery can take time, but one step a day can make it easier to reach your goal faster. Having a solid support recovery system, safe-care routines, and scheduling time for fun and motivating activities more often are great ways to avoid relapse and minimize symptoms of SAD. Here are some other tips you can try.

-Wake up early and get some sunlight as soon as you wake up. Sunlight is the best way to reset your body clock after a long time of SAD because it’s important for circadian rhythm.

Also…

  • Keep your house well lit. If you have to paint light colors on your walls or use daylight stimulation bulbs, do it. 
  • Exercise, if possible, not only will it help with depression, but studies show that those who exercise daily are less likely to relapse than those who don’t.
  • Get enough sleep.
  • Schedule time for self-care activities such as journaling, meditation, self-affirmations, reading inspiring books, and try a new hobby.
  • Connect with family and friends even more often. If you feel lonely, try to find some one-on-one time with them or make plans for lunch!
  •  Eat healthy foods such as omega 3 foods, whole carbs, fruits, and vegetables.
  • Get into an intensive support program that will guide you and offer valuable addiction treatment services.

If You Are Struggling with Seasonal Affective Disorder, Reach Out for Help! 

Don’t be afraid to ask someone you trust or a professional if they can help. You are important, and your mental health is too, which means it’s worth the fight to take care of yourself. There are people who want to help you get the addiction treatment you need, so don’t feel shy about asking because recovery can happen even if you have SAD!

In our Orange County addiction treatment center, we have many different options of addiction treatments, including relapse prevention and therapy, which is why it’s important to talk to a doctor about what your best option will be. 

If SAD has caused depressive episodes in the past or if you know that this season makes relapse, on the whole, more likely call someone today! Please don’t wait any longer to get help because you are important, and it’s okay to ask for the things that will make life easier. Contact professionals in Orange County today for that addiction treatment you need and deserve. 

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