Seasonal depression, also referred to as seasonal affective disorder (SAD), is a type of depression that occurs during certain times of the year, particularly in the fall and winter months. The symptoms of SAD include low mood, decreased energy, and changes in appetite and sleep patterns. For individuals in addiction recovery, SAD can pose a significant challenge and increase the risk of relapse.

The link between seasonal depression and relapse is complex. The distressing symptoms of SAD can make it difficult for individuals in recovery to manage their cravings and triggers effectively. The holiday season can also add to the stressors, with family gatherings and financial pressure potentially exacerbating the situation. Moreover, SAD may affect an individual's support system, leaving them feeling isolated and without resources to manage their addiction.

SAD can also be associated with an increase in substance use. Some individuals may turn to drugs or alcohol as a coping mechanism for feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and anxiety. Additionally, regular treatment plans, such as therapy or medication management or rehabilitation may be less effective during the winter months, making individuals more vulnerable to relapse.

To address the link between seasonal depression and relapse, it is essential to recognize the signs of SAD and seek professional help as needed. This may include working with a therapist, adjusting medication dosages, or exploring alternative treatments such as light therapy. In addition, individuals can take proactive steps to manage their mood during the winter months, such as regular exercise, stress-reduction techniques, and connecting with others through peer support groups or social activities.

It's also crucial to be mindful of the additional stressors that come with the holiday season and plan accordingly. This may involve practicing self-care strategies, setting realistic expectations for gatherings, and seeking alternative ways to connect with loved ones.

SAD Treatments

There are several scientifically proven seasonal affective disorder tips you can adopt for a happier winter:

Light therapy:
The National Health Service (NHS) has recommended light therapy as a SAD treatment. This is a safe and accessible option and requires you to sit near a light source, known as a SAD light box or a SAD lamp, for 30 minutes each morning. The recommended light intensity is 10,000 lux (equivalent to direct sunlight). This therapy helps the brain regulate the body clock and production of brain chemicals by providing enough light during dark days. Research has shown that 3 weeks of treatment with bright light (6000 lux) in the morning led to the overcoming of depressive symptoms in 61% of the participants.

Optimal nutrition:
Good nutritional practices to ensure all essential vitamins and minerals are taken can help manage symptoms. A specific diet of foods for seasonal affective disorder has yet to be proven. One notable nutrient is 5-HTP. This is the direct precursor of serotonin. Supplementing with 5-HTP increases serotonin levels in the brain, which will help regulate your mood.

Practicing physical activity has consistently been shown to improve mental health. Two studies with people with SAD showed that an hour of morning exercise for 2 weeks reduced depressive symptoms and mood by 50%. A study with physical activity (1 hour of stationary cycling) showed that a week of exercise reduced depressive symptoms by almost 70%. The same study treated SAD patients with bright light therapy and found that it reduced symptoms by nearly 65%.

Combined therapies:
A combination of the above treatments work better due to the synergistic effect. A combination of light therapy and CBT led to recovery from SAD in 70% of the participants, compared to 40% of the CBT and 50% of the light therapy-treated participants. Exercising under bright light (2500 lux) led to a greater reduction in depressive scores compared to exercising under normal room light.

Author's Bio: 

Misty Jhones