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Is Seasonal Affective Disorder Putting Your Recovery at Risk?

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that is triggered by the changing seasons. It typically begins in the fall and winter months and affects about 5% of American adults. For men and women being treated for substance use disorders, SAD can be a risk factor for relapse if the condition isn’t managed appropriately. 

Signs You May Be Suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder

The symptoms of SAD can vary from person to person but are generally similar to what one would expect from any type of depression. 

  • Changes in sleep patterns. Those suffering from SAD may find themselves sleeping longer hours than usual. Conversely, they may report having difficulty falling asleep at night due to racing thoughts.
  • Changes in appetite. People who have SAD may find their appetite has changed, either drastically increasing or decreasing. This can lead to unhealthy weight gain or loss.
  • General feelings of unhappiness. Those with SAD often feel a persistent feeling of sadness that can be difficult to shake, even when engaging in activities they typically enjoy. 
  • Lack of interest. People who suffer from SAD may find themselves losing interest in hobbies that were once enjoyable. For example, if you normally spend three or four hours a week painting, you may find that you no longer feel like creating art. 
  • Low energy levels. Difficulty getting out of bed, lack of enthusiasm for daily tasks, and general fatigue are all signs of SAD.
  • Increased irritability. A person suffering from SAD may experience increased feelings of irritability or frustration with everyday tasks and interactions.
  • Withdrawal from friends and family. Those with SAD may feel like withdrawing from their social circle, resulting in less contact with close friends or family. For example, if you are dealing with SAD, you may skip a weekly movie night with friends or Sunday brunch with your parents to simply spend more time home alone.
  • Feelings of hopelessness. People with SAD often struggle to see a future for themselves. This can leave them feeling overwhelmed by the challenges that come with recovery.
  • Difficulty concentrating. A person dealing with SAD may experience difficulty concentrating on tasks or conversations due to racing thoughts. This can lead to reduced performance at work or school. 
  • Increased anxiety and higher stress levels. Struggling with SAD can also lead to higher levels of anxiety and stress as a person attempts to cope with how the symptoms they are experiencing are affecting their day-to-day routine.

Easy Steps You Can Take to Help Keep SAD From Putting Your Recovery at Risk

Although the symptoms of SAD tend to improve as Spring gets closer, that doesn’t mean you should just wait and hope for the best. There are several lifestyle changes you can make to ease your symptoms and help you keep progressing in your recovery. 

  • Get plenty of natural light. One of the main causes of SAD is reduced exposure to sunlight. During the winter months, try to get as much natural light as possible by going for a walk outside or sitting near windows in your home.
  • Make stress management a priority. Stress can worsen symptoms of SAD, so it’s important to practice stress management techniques such as yoga, meditation, or listening to music. Reducing stress can help improve your mood and reduce SAD symptoms.
  • Do things that bring you joy. Try to set aside time each week for social activities with your loved ones and hobbies—even if you feel like crashing on the couch instead. 
  • Get moving. Regular physical activity can help reduce the symptoms of SAD by releasing endorphins. Try to get at least 30 minutes of exercise a day, such as walking, jogging, or biking.
  • Eat a balanced diet. Eating a healthy diet can help improve your mood and reduce SAD symptoms. Try to eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins for optimal health and well-being.
  • Practice good sleep hygiene. Making sure you get enough sleep is essential for reducing SAD symptoms. Try to establish a consistent bedtime routine and practice good sleep habits such as avoiding caffeine late in the day and limiting screen time before bed.
  • Engage in positive self-talk. Negative self-talk can worsen the symptoms of SAD. Take a few minutes each day to write down three things you are grateful for or something that went well during the day.

If these lifestyle changes don’t produce the desired results, your therapist can provide you with guidance and support in managing your symptoms and improving your mood. Your therapist can also discuss if you might benefit from antidepressant medication. 

Waypoint Recovery Center Is Here for You

At Waypoint Recovery Center, we are committed to your success. We provide a full continuum of care for men and women with substance use disorders including Seasonal Affective Disorder at our South Carolina drug and alcohol addiction treatment center, including treatment for co-occurring mental health conditions such as depression. Contact us today to learn more about how our services can help you continue to move forward in your recovery. 

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