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March 22, 2023

How Seasonal Affective Disorder Can Impact Your Recovery

Seasonal Affective Disorder is more common than you might think, especially for those who live in the Northern Hemisphere due to long, dark, and rainy winters. Some people experience very mild symptoms of SAD, so mild in fact that people tend to disregard them as simply being in a funk, but recognizing the symptoms of SAD can mean the difference between getting out of that funk or letting it progress.

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March 22, 2023

Understanding Seasonal Affective Disorder

SAD occurs in some individuals between late fall and spring. About 5% of people in the United States suffer from SAD, triggered by shorter daylight hours, which is more common in northern locations.

SAD was initially known as a major depressive disorder. People are only diagnosed with SAD if they have suffered from wintertime melancholy for at least two years, despite experiencing complete remission of depressive symptoms during the warmer, sunnier summer months.

Symptoms of SAD are often very similar to those of depression. SAD is not recognized as a distinct disease but rather as a subtype of depression that occurs only during specific times of the year.

As a result, sufferers may experience symptoms for up to five months yearly. The indications and symptoms of SAD overlap with those of major depression because of the close relationship between the two.

Some more common symptoms of SAD are lack of vitality, insomnia, low self-esteem, losing interest in previous hobbies, struggling to focus on tasks, and having suicidal thoughts.

In March, Particularly in the Northern Hemisphere, SAD Peaks

Springtime blues may be more prevalent than you would imagine. According to research conducted by the National Institute of Mental Health, the suicide rate truly reaches its annual high point in the spring. This high season starts in early March and continues through May.

Why, then, do so many individuals choose to end their own lives at this time? The most probable explanation is the same as why antidepressants could sometimes raise the likelihood of suicide when patients start taking them.

Some individuals with chronic depression have found that antidepressants have motivated them to live again. At this point, the antidepressant begins to take effect, and in some cases, the patient's enhanced energy levels lead them to take their own lives.

Naturally, after the Winter Solstice, the quantity of daylight gradually increases. There are significantly more daylight hours in the spring after a long winter. Most individuals will feel more energized if they have access to more sunlight. It could indicate a sad person all winter now feels strong enough to commit suicide.

How SAD can Negatively Affect People in Recovery from Addiction

Recovering addicts may experience SAD as one of their relapse factors. Drug addiction and excessive drinking are the most common coping mechanisms to combat these low moods. The short indoor days with little to no natural light can produce an atmosphere that can lead one to consider returning to substance abuse.

Some people recovering from addiction find the winter particularly challenging, as they spend more time indoors (at work or home) and yearn for a warm, long nap in their substance of choice. That's not a wise decision for your well-being.

The risk of developing SAD is higher for people in recovery from substance abuse. Alterations in one's emotional state can catalyze a relapse, which is accurate. Loneliness is a major risk factor for recurrence at this time.

Those in recovery from substance abuse often struggle with tediousness because it triggers thoughts of relapsing and using again. It may feel like there are fewer things to do in the autumn and winter. Without the ability to go outside, many people in recovery from substance abuse become depressed.

You may also need more motivation because of the declining hours of daylight. It is important that you do not allow it to impact your well-being by engaging in reckless activities. Instead, consult a psychologist specializing in this disease and other behavioral disorders.

Most Common Symptoms of SAD

  • Feeling listless, sad or down most of the day, nearly every day
  • Losing interest in activities you once enjoyed
  • Having low energy and feeling sluggish
  • Having problems with sleeping too much
  • Experiencing carbohydrate cravings, overeating and weight gain
  • Having difficulty concentrating
  • Feeling hopeless, worthless or guilty
  • Having thoughts of not wanting to live

Tips on How to Treat SAD

Effective methods to treat SAD are such as light therapy, antidepressants, talk therapy, and various combinations of these all. Although seasonal changes often relieve symptoms, treatment usually has a more rapid effect.

Light Therapy

During light therapy, patients sit in front of a special light therapy box that produces a very bright light (while blocking out any potentially harmful UV rays). During the cold months, you should set aside at least 20 minutes every day, preferably first thing in the morning.

Most patients report feeling better under light therapy within the first two weeks of treatment. Treatment is typically maintained throughout the winter to preserve gains and forestall relapse. Some people may initiate light therapy in early fall to prevent the recurrence of symptoms in late fall when the weather turns cooler.

Spending More Time Outdoors

The signs of SAD can be alleviated by simply spending more time outdoors. For instance, you could walk during lunchtime or position yourself near a window at work. (However, spending time in the sun raises your chance of developing skin cancer due to exposure to ultraviolet light.) Remember, you and your doctor should discuss any treatment's potential downsides and upsides.


Talk treatment (psychotherapy) is an additional method for dealing with SAD. Cognitive behavioral therapy is a form of counseling that can aid in acquiring valuable coping skills for SAD, including scheduling important activities, determining what's causing you to feel down, and doing something about it.

People can even talk to psychiatrists or therapists to get these emotions off their chest and maybe address some of the stress or anxiety they've developed. If a person struggles with depression, they may be unable to cope with everyday problems or activities.


Antidepressants are over-the-counter, and prescription medications can assist in restoring the chemical equilibrium that may have been disrupted, which may have contributed to SAD. Treatment with antidepressants can be helpful for some individuals whose SAD symptoms are particularly severe.

People with a history of SAD may benefit from taking bupropion XL (Wellbutrin XL, Aplenzin), an extended-release form of the antidepressant. Several other antidepressants, known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), are the standard treatment for seasonal affective disorder.

Self-Care Measures can Also be Effective in Reducing Symptoms:

  • See a doctor right away if you've got any suspicions that depression might be setting in
  • Spend time with others and tell someone what's bothering you. It's generally preferable to keep to one's self and keep secrets
  • Put your energy into improving your mood. Activities like going to the movies, farming, and participating in groups can all be therapeutic. When you assist another person, you'll feel better about yourself, too
  • Exercise frequently, and intake of nutritious, well-balanced foods is recommended
  • Avoid substances like hard drinks and drugs. These factors may contribute to aggravating depressive symptoms
  • It's important to talk to people who know you well and can give you an unbiased opinion before making any major life changes, such as switching careers, getting married, or separating
  • You should exercise patience and look on the bright side. A shift in perspective like this may help counteract the depressive state
  • Give your loved ones a chance to assist you

When to Consult an Expert if Supplements or Other At-Home Remedies Fail

Anyone who has been diagnosed with SAD as well as an addiction disorder, should get professional assistance. Their conditions are amenable to therapy.

But without help, they can spiral out of control: depression can lead to drug abuse, leading to more depressive episodes. Self-medication with drugs is risky, despite some people believing it will help them cope with SAD.

When dealing with bipolar disorder, it is crucial to rule out the possibility of a coexisting medical condition, as with other types of depression. Proper assessment is necessary. Because SAD can be misdiagnosed as hypothyroidism, hypoglycemia, infectious mononucleosis, or another viral infection, an expert in mental health can provide a diagnosis and recommendations for treatment.

Seeking the Help You Deserve

Hollywood Hills Recovery treats drug abuse, alcoholism, and behavior addictions with customized plans and innovative programs. We offer detox, inpatient therapy, and aftercare services to ensure our patients have the best possible recovery experience.

Substance abuse disorder is a common symptom for those fighting addiction. We hope that you or someone you adore will seek treatment with us so that we can help you achieve recovery. Get in touch with us immediately for more details.

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