Don't Dismiss because I'm SAD
SAD is especially dangerous for people in drug or alcohol addiction recovery. The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) reports that drug and alcohol abuse is a common problem among patients who are diagnosed with depressive disorders like SAD, reporting that more than 20-percent of patients diagnosed with any mood disorder are also living with a substance abuse problem. Additionally, NIDA found that more than 20-percent of those diagnosed with a depression disorder abused drugs and alcohol. What is especially dangerous to those new in recovery, is that they may not be aware of what's triggering their depression. SAD can cause for a strong desire to self-medicate - a temporary fix, that can lead to a recovery relapse. Relapses in recovery can either pose a one-time set-back, lead to a new extended period of abuse, or can very often be fatal.
Overwhelming sadness, numbness, isolation, sleep disorders, feelings of hopelessness, are all symptoms of SAD. It is tempting, if medications are not being prescribed or used properly, for people suffering from SAD and addiction to turn to their old friend - their drug of choice. SAD and self-medication is a deadly concoction for anyone and most of all, the addict in recovery. Temporary relief of the symptoms leads to a sinking depression once the alcohol or drugs leave the body. This withdrawal is only worsened with SAD and each time an abused substance wears off, the negative feelings are exacerbated, triggering you guessed it - more abuse. It's what we know as "the vicious cycle," and SAD only provides fuel to it. When those in recovery, especially those new to the lifestyle - lose hope or joy in sobriety, they naturally will miss their addiction and develop strong cravings. We all feel a little blue when we don't get enough sunlight. It happens every winter and we know it's coming.
However, SAD is a real disorder that can trigger a major setback in the recovery process. The good news is, that once the problem is identified, and SAD is diagnosed, it is almost always possible to bring the depression and addiction under control. Light therapy, medication, and other forms of treatment are available. It is imperative for everyone, and especially those in recovery - to be self-aware of the symptoms of SAD.
Some of the possible causes for seasonal affective disorder include:
- Lack of sunlight may lead to a drop in serotonin levels, an important neurotransmitter that is important for managing mood.
- Melatonin levels can also be affected by seasonal changes. This compound is found in the body and affects sleep patterns as well as mood.
- The lengthening and shortening of days can affect people’s biological clock, or circadian rhythm. This can lead to problems with sleeping, which in turn triggers depressive symptoms.
- There may be a genetic predisposition towards developing SAD. It has also been noted that women tend to be more susceptible to it than men.
The symptoms of SAD can include:
- A noticeable drop in energy levels
- Weight gain, which is often due to an increased desire to eat foods high in carbohydrates
- Difficulty with concentration
- Feelings of anxiety
- A desire to seek isolation from other people
- Loss of interest in activities that are normally enjoyable
- Reluctance to get out of bed in the morning
- Inability to sleep (summer onset SAD)
- Increased libido (summer onset SAD)
It is important to consider that once people experience these symptoms, medical advice should be sought right away.