Seasonal depression, also known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD), is a mental health condition in which a person is depressed due to the change in seasons. For most people, the winter season or holiday season triggers seasonal depression, which, in turn, can lead to substance abuse. Many people who seek help for substance abuse do so through addiction treatment therapies to combat their addiction and depression during the winter.
Although seasonal depression (SAD) is common during the winter, treatment specialists are still largely unsure of what triggers it. Considerable research has yet to be done to determine the connection between the cold season and the heavy mood that many people experience. As a result, many people who have SAD are given the same treatment as people with more common forms of depression.
Seasonal Depression: A Closer Look
It’s hard to determine exactly why people get seasonal depression. Some of the leading theories include:
- Lower melatonin levels
- Lower serotonin levels
- Changes to the circadian rhythm
Sunlight produces melatonin, a hormone that regulates your sleep-wake cycle. Doctors often prescribe melatonin to patients who are struggling with insomnia. As it gets colder outside, many people go indoors, experiencing a loss in melatonin during the winter. This can lead to seasonal depression, as the loss of melatonin disrupts the body’s balance.
Sunlight also produces serotonin, a neurotransmitter that produces feelings of pleasure, and mental stability. Lack of sunlight. which often happens during the winter, can cause a reduction in serotonin. The sudden reduction in neurotransmitters can lead to an imbalance, which may trigger depression or addiction. Mental health treatment can help people overcome seasonal depression, although their serotonin levels may be low.
The biological clock or circadian rhythm can contribute to mental health issues such as seasonal depression. The lack of sunlight can disrupt the body’s internal clock and lead to depressed feelings that linger throughout the season. When combined, a lack of melatonin, serotonin, and sunlight can disrupt the body’s natural processes. This, in turn, can cause depression.
Symptoms of Seasonal Depression
The symptoms of seasonal depression typically appear during late fall or early winter and start to fade as the weather warms up and the days get longer. A person who has depression may get the condition slowly as each day gets shorter and colder. Some of the most common symptoms of seasonal depression include:
- Suicidal thoughts
- Feelings of hopelessness or despair
- Difficulty concentrating
- Low energy or motivation
- Losing interest in activities
The Holidays and Seasonal Depression
Some of the most celebrated holidays (such as Christmas, Thanksgiving, Halloween, and New Year’s) all occur during the winter season. Although these holidays are associated with parties and happiness, seasonal depression can disrupt these positive feelings.
When the expectation is happiness during the holidays but the exact opposite is occurring, many people will feel like they’ve done something wrong. They may not realize that they’re suffering from seasonal depression and will simply blame themselves. This can cause some individuals to go further into depression and anxiety as they try to deal with the cold season and the holiday season simultaneously.
Another common symptom of seasonal depression is drug or alcohol addiction. A person who doesn’t know how to manage a mental health condition such as depression may turn to drinking or taking drugs as a form of self-medication.
The holidays bring a lot of pressure for many people. Relatives arrive and may make the gatherings tense by bringing up past contentious issues within the family, for example. The tension this produces is a trigger for taking a drink or resorting to drug use.
Someone struggling with addiction can get help for depression and addiction through dual diagnosis as a part of an individual therapy program. Treatment is available to help someone manage the symptoms of their mental health disorder while overcoming their addiction.
Get Help for Substance Abuse at Georgia Addiction Treatment Center
Don’t let the cold season get you down. Get help for seasonal depression at Georgia Addiction Treatment Center. We offer addiction treatment therapies for all types of addictions and mental health disorders. Call Georgia Addiction Treatment Center to find out more about your addiction treatment options. We’re here to help you get on the road to recovery from substance abuse (and stay there).