As the days become shorter and the weather becomes cooler, many people suffer from seasonal affective disorder. Commonly and appropriately shortened to SAD, this disorder leaves people feeling sad or down. When it co-occurs with other issues, such as addiction, the effects can be even worse. Proper seasonal affective disorder treatment is essential.
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What Is Seasonal Affective Disorder?
Most people feel down from time to time, but when negative feelings and symptoms persist, it may be depression. SAD is a form of depression that mainly manifests itself when there is less daylight. People who notice significant changes in their mood and desire to function during the cooler months of the year may have this disorder. In the northern hemisphere, January and February are the two months when symptoms are worse.
Most people in the northern hemisphere who suffer from SAD notice that their symptoms improve greatly during the spring or summer. Because SAD is associated with cooler weather and shorter days, it is commonly called winter depression. However, some people have summer-pattern SAD, but it is rare.
Signs And Symptoms Of SAD
The symptoms of SAD usually start mild and increase in severity. These are some of the most common SAD symptoms:
- Trouble sleeping at night.
- Perpetually low energy levels.
- Changes in appetite or weight.
- Frequent negative thoughts, including thoughts of suicide or death.
- Loss of interest in normal activities, such as work, family, and social life.
- Continual and lasting feelings of depression.
- Sluggishness and agitation every day.
- Inability to concentrate.
- Feelings of worthlessness, guilt, and hopelessness.
Effects Of SAD
The combined effects of SAD can lead to worsening depression. For example, a person commonly feels fatigued and may oversleep. The oversleeping, often combined with colder weather that makes exercising seem more challenging, may disrupt an exercise regimen. People tend to eat more as well because of depression, and they gain weight. The combined effects that lead to worsening depression are only the start of a person’s problems in some cases. When the unpleasant physical and psychological effects of depression start to affect a person, the individual may turn to substances to cope.
What Is Addiction?
Addiction is a dysfunction that is considered a chronic and relapsing brain disease. It happens when someone is unable to stop using a substance. Although researchers had a poorer understanding of it in the past, they now know how it works and why treatment is so important. When a person uses a substance that is prone to creating a tolerance, they need more of it to achieve the same effects. As they take more of the substance in larger doses and more often, it damages the brain and alters how it sends and receives signals.
Those signals are critical for making decisions. The strong urge that people feel to use more of a substance may lead them to steal or even hurt others to obtain more. Since the portions of the brain that are responsible for higher reasoning and judgment experience negative effects, people demonstrate behaviors that they may not normally show. Brain changes are visible on imaging scans. The negative changes can last even after a person stops using a substance and it is no longer in the bloodstream.
When people try to detox on their own, they often wind up relapsing. What makes this especially dangerous is that they often require a larger dose to feel the same effects, and some people take a dangerous or fatal overdose. Professional treatment and supervised detox are important for properly treating addiction and staying in recovery.
Signs And Symptoms Of Addiction
The signs and symptoms of addiction can vary from one person to another. However, loved ones or people who know someone who has an addiction usually notice distinct changes. There are often changes that are physical and emotional. These are some common signs and symptoms:
- Poorer performance at school or work.
- Difficulty maintaining relationships, including family, work, and friends.
- Frequent and unexpected mood swings may include violent behavior.
- Feeling unable to stop using a substance even if it is a prescription that is no longer necessary to use.
- New or complicated legal problems.
- New financial problems due to using or seeking a substance.
- Unusual lethargy or talkativeness.
- Changes in weight or personal hygiene.
- Guarding a drawer, bag, purse, box, or other specific items closely.
- Acting unusually secretive or disappearing for hours.
- Missing a lot of work or taking long and frequent breaks.
The combination of symptoms also may depend on the type of substance a person uses. For example, substances that relax people, such as painkillers, can lead to lethargy. However, stimulants give people more energy, which can cause them to be excessively talkative.
Just one or two symptoms may or may not always indicate a problem. For example, a person who takes frequent breaks at work and loses weight quickly may have a different type of health problem. It helps to observe the situation, and when it is time to seek help, it is good to contact a treatment facility.
Dangers of SAD And Addiction As Co-Occurring Disorders
About 20% of people in the United States who have a mood disorder also have a substance use disorder. The effects of untreated depression, anxiety, and other mood disorders are so unbearable for some people that they turn to alcohol or drugs. With the right treatments, many people can alleviate the negative symptoms without dangerous substances.
When people turn to a substance to treat SAD, they may develop an addiction. For many people, SAD symptoms only persist throughout the fall and winter. However, if a person develops an addiction to a substance, the addiction will remain even if the negative feelings start to subside. In some cases, mental health disorders can develop as a result of prolonged substance misuse.
Why Treatment of SAD And Addiction Together Is Important
Treating both disorders together helps reduce the risk of relapse. Treating one issue leaves the problems associated with the other issue unaddressed. Someone who only seeks addiction treatment and feels better during the summer may relapse late in the fall when the untreated SAD symptoms reappear. Since substance misuse can cause long-term effects on the brain, relapsing can be harmful. Additionally, it causes other forms of harm, such as financial trouble, strained family relationships, and more.
Professionals know how to treat SAD and addiction together. They use a variety of therapeutic approaches, such as CBT, DBT, and others. CBT and DBT help people identify the reasons for their behavior and find their addiction triggers, and the therapies help them modify behaviors or deal with triggers. Therapists use counseling, nutrition, exercise, alternative therapies, and medications to help people stay in recovery and manage SAD symptoms.
How To Overcome Seasonal Affective Disorder
Multiple useful therapies can help people with SAD. Anyone who is considering turning to a substance can benefit more from trying a healthier therapy. Professionals often recommend using light therapy, mind-body connection techniques, psychotherapy, and medications to manage the symptoms of SAD.
Light therapy devices mimic natural sunlight to boost a person’s mood. Psychotherapy helps people discover the reasons for their feelings and ways to change negative thoughts or behaviors. Mind-body connection involves relaxation, guided imagery, music, or other alternative therapies that boost mood. Using a combination of these and other techniques, professionals teach people how to overcome the seasonal affective disorder.
Overcoming seasonal affective disorder is a process that a person must take each year. If the symptoms only persist for a few months, it is important to be proactive and start taking steps to prevent symptoms or combat them as soon as they start each year. Since they can persist longer with some people, it is especially important to work with a therapist who regularly evaluates changing needs.
Addiction And Seasonal Affective Disorder Treatment In Florida
If you or someone you know is suffering from addiction and seasonal affective disorder, Florida Center for Recovery is here to help. Our Fort Pierce facility welcomes residents and people from other parts of Florida. We have a compassionate team of professionals who understand the unique struggles of addiction, the unique struggles of depression, and how co-occurring disorders negatively affect one another.
We have a personalized approach to treatment and thoroughly evaluate each person’s specific needs. With a multi-therapy approach, we treat mind, body, and spirit. Our professionals use the right medications or methods for each person’s mental health needs.
When it comes to addiction, our goal is to help people avoid relapse by treating every issue at the same time. We teach people the strongest strategies for beating the cycle of addiction. To learn more about addiction and seasonal affective disorder treatment in Florida, please contact us.
Dr. Balta is the Medical Director at FCR for more than 10 years. Dr. Balta is Board Certified in Psychiatry and Addiction Medicine, Certified Psychoanalyst. As well, as having Psychiatric Training at The Albert Einstein School of Medicine Psychiatric Residency Program In New York City and Psychoanalytic Training at The William Alanson White Institute in New York City. While working in New York City, gained funding Grants for the treatment of Substance Abuse Disorders from SAMHSA , HRSA and the City of New York.