This time of year, it can sometimes seem as if the sun never shines. That can be particularly true if you have to be at work or school early and you put in a long day. In those circumstances, you might find yourself leaving home in the dark and returning in the dark during the long winter months.

And even if the sun does make an appearance at a time when you might notice, you might decide it is far more comfortable to stay inside where it’s warm than to venture out to catch a few winter rays. After all, going outside might involve bundling up so much that you would hardly even be able to tell the sun was out. 

For many people, however, the lack of exposure to sunlight during the winter months can leave them feeling blue. In fact, for some, the problem develops into seasonal affective disorder, which is cleverly and appropriately abbreviated as SAD.

If you are a person in recovery from a substance use disorder, seasonal affective disorder can pose a real risk to your ongoing sobriety. That is because good mental health provides a firmer foundation for your recovery—and mental health disorders do the opposite. So if the winter months have darkened your mood, it is important that you address the symptoms of SAD without delay.

We figure you might be glad to have some ideas for battling SAD. But first, let’s take a look at the symptoms.

Are You Sad or is it SAD?

We all feel sad from time to time, and that is perfectly appropriate and natural. Seasonal affective disorder, however, is different from run-of-the-mill sadness. SAD is a form of depression, and as a result, it can be identified by a range of symptoms that align with disorders like major depression. Those symptoms might include (but not be limited to):

  • Feeling down and depressed most days
  • Losing interest in hobbies and other activities you generally enjoy
  • Having trouble sleeping and/or oversleeping
  • Craving carbs, which might lead to weight gain
  • Withdrawing from your friends and family

Do those symptoms sound familiar? 

Getting Out of the Dark and Into the Light

A deficiency of vitamin D is thought to be one of the primary causes of seasonal affective disorder. And sunlight is one of the primary sources of the vitamin. So even though it is wintertime, one way to address the symptoms of SAD is to bundle up and get outside each day. (And really, if you live in the Williamsburg area, you may not actually need to bundle up all that much given the generally mild winters.)

If you would really rather stay indoors during the colder months, a special lamp that mimics sunlight can be a great alternative. Vitamin D supplements—as well as increasing the amount of the vitamin in your diet—can also help, though perhaps not as effectively as sunlight (or a sunlight alternative) does.

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and some medications can also be helpful. Talking with your doctor and/or therapist about how you are feeling is a great first step toward getting the help you need to start feeling better.

SAD and Sobriety

As we have noted, seasonal affective disorder is a mental health disorder—and as such, it can potentially upend your recovery. You might, for example, find yourself tempted to return to drugs or alcohol as a way to “self-medicate” against the feelings of depression you are experiencing. That, of course, is not a path you want to go down.

To avoid it, you will want to address symptoms of SAD sooner rather than later. Again, your doctor and/or therapist can help you find the best ways to handle seasonal affective disorder so that your sobriety is protected.

Replace the Darkness of a Substance Use Disorder with the Light of Sobriety

At Farley Center in Williamsburg, VA, we are wholly committed to improving the lives we touch. That means you can count on us to provide personalized, evidence-based care that will help you regain and maintain your sobriety. From medically supervised detoxification, to a rehabilitation program that includes treatment for co-occurring mental health disorders, to our continuum of care that provides ongoing support as your recovery journey gets underway, we are dedicated to serving you with experience, expertise, and empathy. 

Reclaiming your sobriety and your life is like seeing the sun emerge from the clouds. We are here to help when you are ready to get started.