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Can Seasonal Affective Disorder Hinder My Recovery?

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Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a type of seasonal depression that is not uncommon to experience at this time of year, as the days start to get shorter, and the weather gets colder. Affecting over 10 million Americans each year, SAD symptoms include oversleeping, lack of energy, overeating, and isolating yourself from friends and family.

Mental health disorders such as SAD often go hand-in-hand with a substance use disorder. When an individual has both a mental health disorder and a substance use disorder, this is called a co-occurring disorder or a dual diagnosis. When a mental health disorder goes untreated, the substance use disorder tends to get worse, and as substance abuse increases, the mental health disorder gets worse. More than 50 percent of individuals who struggle with a substance use disorder also experience a mental health disorder at the same time. However, you may experience SAD even if you do not have depression during the rest of the year. 

If you struggle with SAD and are currently recovering from a substance use disorder, you may find it tempting to relapse at this time of year. It may feel like you have no control over your mood and emotions, but fortunately, there are steps you can take to avoid relapsing. 

Professional Treatment:
If you are struggling with a co-occurring disorder, then you should seek treatment that addresses both disorders at the same time. 

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: There is absolutely no shame in seeking help, and therapy can teach you healthy ways to cope with SAD that will help you steer clear of relapse, such as how to change negative thoughts and how to manage stress. 

  • natural-window-lightLight Therapy: One of the reasons for SAD can be linked to a lack of natural light and Vitamin D. Light therapy involves sitting in front of a UV light box for 
    about 20 minutes a day to simulate sunlight and give your body the Vitamin D that it needs. 
  • Medication: In some cases, antidepressants that have an increase in serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) can help ease symptoms of SAD, but be aware that they can also have troublesome side effects. 

At-home Treatment:

While it is highly recommended that you should seek professional treatment if you are experiencing SAD and recovering from a substance use disorder, there are also things you can do on your own that can greatly reduce your symptoms of SAD that you can start doing right now.

  • Spending time outside
  • Exercising
  • Eating a balanced diet, and taking vitamin supplements
  • Opening the blinds in your house to get more natural light
  • Spend time with friends and family

While these activities may not be what you feel like doing when you are struggling with SAD, they can have an incredible impact on your thoughts and mood. Remember that indulging in alcohol or drugs as an attempt to ease the feelings of SAD will only worsen your symptoms. 

Co-occurring disorders can derail the best intentions for a sober life in recovery. Don’t let an untreated medical condition like SAD be what stands in the way of your sobriety. Here at Aquila, we provide a recovery program that specifically treats co-occurring disorders that can give you the support and motivation you need to turn your life around. Reach out today.