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Emerging From Winter: How Seasonal Affective Disorder Compounds Addiction

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Many factors can make addiction issues more pronounced. These factors can be both internal like pent-up trauma or external like the changing of the seasons. This last external aspect is where seasonal affective disorder can really start to compound addiction struggles.

Better Understanding Seasonal Affective Disorder

Many people dismiss seasonal affective disorder (also commonly referred to as “seasonal depression”) as either a minimal issue or a fleeting one. For example, “it’s okay, it will soon pass.” This is not a reasonable or acceptable way to think about seasonal affective disorder as it can be very detrimental and disruptive to one’s day-to-day life.

So then, what exactly is seasonal affective disorder? According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), “Many people feel ‘down’ or have the ‘winter blues’ when the days get shorter in the fall and winter and feel better in the spring when longer daylight hours return. Sometimes, these mood changes are more serious and can affect how a person feels, thinks, and behaves. If you have noticed significant changes in your mood and behavior when the seasons change, you may be experiencing seasonal affective disorder.”

Seasonal affective disorder isn’t relegated to the winter either. There are two types of seasonal affective disorder. These are winter-pattern seasonal affective disorder and summer-pattern seasonal affective disorder. However, while these are distinct types of the disorder, they do have many signs and symptoms that overlap.

The Signs and Symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder

Many of the signs and symptoms of seasonal affective disorder resemble the signs and symptoms of anxiety and depressive disorders. The following are just a few of those signs and symptoms:

  • Ongoing feelings of stress, sadness, anxiety, and depression
  • Feelings of restlessness and unease
  • Losing interest in activities once enjoyed
  • Loss of energy and a constant feeling of fatigue
  • Feelings of guilt and shame
  • Experiencing negative changes in sleep patterns, such as sleeping too much or sleeping too little
  • Having trouble concentrating on even simple tasks
  • Experiencing physical aches and pains that can not otherwise be explained
  • Feeling the need to self-harm or having suicidal ideations
  • Excessive use of alcohol and/or substances as coping mechanisms

It is this last warning sign that can be particularly harmful as it can lead to addiction. However, seasonal affective disorder can also be extremely harmful to people who are already struggling with active addiction.

How Does Seasonal Affective Disorder Compound Addiction Issues

One major component of active addiction is isolation. This is because people struggling with active addiction often avoid people or situations that may threaten their addictive behaviors. This is not them personally, it is just the nature of the disease of addiction.

Seasonal affective disorder also shares this need to isolate. So when the two meet it can be particularly difficult to break out of it. Like seasonal affective disorder, active addiction also shares many of the same symptoms as depression, and often, the deeper the depression gets the greater the need to drink and/or use.

Seasonal affective disorder can also keep someone stuck in a hopeless state of despair that will keep them from garnering the strength to reach out for help. This state must be broken if someone is going to begin to heal from both the disorder and the addiction.

Healing From Seasonal Affective Disorder Along With Addiction

The window for someone to get help often closes very quickly. This is why it is crucial to act as soon as someone is ready and willing to get help. For someone with seasonal depression, this is often when the seasons begin to change and they start to feel a little better. However, one should never wait to get someone the help they need if it is apparent that they are currently struggling (in the middle of the season).

It is also important to treat people with co-occurring disorders for all issues right from the start. For example, one must be treated for the emotional issues related to seasonal affective disorder at the same time they are treated for the mental issues of addiction. With co-occurring disorders, if one issue goes untreated, there is a good chance that the untreated issue will bring the treated issue out of remission.

A couple of effective ways for healing from both seasonal affective disorder and addiction are therapy and recovery meetings. Therapy (either group, individual, or both) can help get to the underlying issues of the disorder and the addiction, while the recovery meetings can help create a roadmap for the steps needed to take in recovery.

Healing at the Cellular Level With Lantana Recovery

Here at Lantana Recovery, we believe in healing at the cellular level. This means fully healing from a hopeless state of body, mind, and soul.

The iconic American poet, Walt Whitman famously said, “Keep your face always toward the sunshine – and shadows will fall behind you.” Issues of addiction and seasonal affective disorder have long held people back from living the lives that they’ve always desired and deserved; from seeing the sunshine. At Lantana Recovery, the life we want no longer has to be on hold. The sun can come out.

Seasonal affective disorder can seriously increase the negative effects of alcohol and/or substance addiction. It can also interfere with one’s successful recovery. This is true even in temperate climates like the ones experienced in the Low Country of South Carolina. If you feel like you or a loved one is struggling with issues of addiction, mental illness, or co-occurring disorders, we can help get you onto the positive path toward long-term recovery right away. For more information about the basics of seasonal affective disorder, how it compounds addiction issues, and how to treat and manage it when it pops up, please reach out to Lantana Recovery today at (866) 997-2870.

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Charleston South Carolina

Charleston South Carolina

Located on the historic peninsula of Charleston, South Carolina, Lantana Recovery takes a modern approach to Substance Use Disorder treatment, offering intensive clinical care while also immersing our clients in local Charleston culture.