Season affective disorder can trigger substance abuse

The change in seasons can be very uplifting and enjoyable for people who adapt themselves quickly. But some may experience depressive episodes as they find it hard to cope with environmental changes. The incessant rains, excessive cold and darkness, or unbearable heat can restrict activities that one enjoys doing throughout the year. The negative emotions associated with shift in seasons is known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD). It begins and ends at about the same time each year. People often experience serious mood changes during winter due to less natural light. It disappears during the spring and summer season. For this reason, it is commonly known as winter depression.  

SAD symptoms can manifest during adolescence but it is more prevalent in people between 18 and 30 years. For adults, the risk of developing SAD decrease as they become older. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), patients diagnosed with depressive disorders like SAD are prone to abuse drug and alcohol. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) has also revealed that 20 percent of patients diagnosed with any type of mood disorders live with a substance abuse problem. Winter is a difficult time for those suffering from SAD, but those recovering from drug or alcohol addiction are at a greater risk. Many of them are vulnerable to relapse during this time.

Addiction developed during seasonal depression can last longer

SAD symptoms vary from person to person. Those affected may struggle to maintain positive relationships with those around them and have no interest in personal health and hygiene or managing household responsibilities. The overwhelming sadness, hopelessness, irritability, fatigue, difficulty in sleeping, digestive problems and thoughts of suicide or death may tempt a person to self-medicate.

The effect of self-medication can lead to prescription drug abuse if medications are not used properly or if they do not alleviate depressive symptoms. The addiction may linger even after the season changes. Combination of depression and drug addiction can lead to serious consequences and can make withdrawal tough. Moreover, the withdrawal can further push a person to use drugs again to get temporary relief.

Doctors adopt several ways to treat SAD: the most common treatment is light therapy. It is effective when it is initiated prior to the onset of symptoms. When people frequently experience mood changes during seasonal changes, it is helpful to start the therapy early. However, light therapy alone may not be effective. Cognitive-behavioral therapy, antidepressant medicines and talk therapy can help reduce SAD symptoms, either alone or in combination with light therapy. Another line of treatment is pharmacotherapy, which is commonly used to treat depression or anxiety.

Seeking treatment right away

Identifying symptoms for SAD timely can help individuals to manage their symptoms and receive appropriate medical treatment. People suffering from both seasonal depression and substance abuse problems need particular attention as they are at greater risk of suffering from debilitating repercussions.

If you know someone in need of evidence-based treatment for depression or any other mental illness, you can contact the 24/7 Mental Health Helpline to get information on the finest mental health facilities in your area. You can call our 24/7 helpline number 855-653-8178 to know about some effective mental health counseling programs in your vicinity.