Pumpkin spice lattes, warm toned leaves, and a crisper air are finally here! We love the fall and all it’s feelings. However, not everyone shares our excitement for the change seasons. Some people experience dips in their mood during the fall/winter seasons, so they don’t look forward to it’s arrival. We know this as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Aside from it’s unpleasant symptoms, it can also come hand in hand with addiction as well. Depression and addiction never make a good relationship.
WHAT IS SEASONAL AFFECTIVE DISORDER (SAD)
People experience a type of seasonal depression around the same time every year, usually fall/winter months. Some people may have heard it as Seasonal Depression. SAD can affect an individual’s health, relationships, work, school, self esteem/sense of self, and day to day tasks. Someone would experience dramatic shifts in mood, changes in appetite, irregular sleep patterns, and inconsistent energy levels. That in itself can increase one’s risk of abusing substances and addiction.
WHAT CAUSES SAD
There are different theories and studies that support different reasoning, but it’s generally agreed that the decline of daylight hours during the winter is a major influencer. In the fall/winter, the days get shorter and we aren’t exposed to the sun (along with it’s natural antidepressant: vitamin D) as much as the summer months. The days get colder, the tones and colors in nature change, the sky gets cloudier. This actually disrupts our body’s circadian rhythm and changes the levels of neurotransmitters in our brains. And when this happens, it affects our internal clock that determines when we sleep and wake up. Because our body is naturally influenced by light, when it’s dark, we produce more melatonin to sleep. When the winter has shorter days and longer nights, we produce more of this hormone, making us feel sleepy and out of it.
ADDICTION AND SAD
The reasons why people with SAD are prone to being challenged with addiction isn’t very different from those who suffer from major depression during other times of the year. Usually, people turn to substances as a way to self medicate their depression. However, it is always counterproductive, actually making matters worse for the individual. The circadian disruption may impact our dopamine production, rewarding us with pleasure feelings from drugs and alcohol during a time of mood and sleep struggles.
Addiction is one thing, depression is another. When a person is battling the two simultaneously, they fuel each other. Both conditions need to be treated carefully. It’s important not to just focus on recovering from addiction, but to heal overall.
DON’T BE SAD THIS SEASON
If you or a loved one struggles with Seasonal Affective Disorder and/or addiction, please contact Crownview Co-Occurring to get in touch with a medical professional who will build an individualized plan to recover from both conditions and get life back on track.