Winter Blues: How to Recognize and Treat Seasonal Depression

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Man in jacket and hat outside on gray day

Now that winter has officially settled in, the short, dark days are now also filled with chilling cold and harsh winds. For many, these gloomy winter days can put a damper on their lives. The American Academy of Family Physicians found that 4 to 6 percent of Americans suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). For people in addiction recovery, SAD can also pose a danger — risk for relapse.

What is SAD?

SAD is a mood disorder that is triggered by the changing of seasons. For most people, SAD starts in the fall and carries out to through winter. The main reason for SAD is diminished exposure to sunlight. Natural light affects the amount of serotonin — neurotransmitters in the brain that regulate mood — in a person’s body and lack of it can cause a person’s levels to plummet, ultimately leading to depression.

Some common symptoms a person with SAD experiences:

  • Less amount of energy
  • Feelings of sadness
  • Need for more sleep
  • Desire to be less social

When a person suffers from depressive disorders such as SAD, the compounding feelings of numbness, isolation, and lack of sleep can lead them to self-medicate to relieve some of the symptoms temporarily. For a person in recovery, self-medication coupled with depression can create something far worse — a relapse.

Other individuals in recovery may blame their sorrow on being sober. They will start to idealize how their addiction once made them feel happy and begin using again.

How to deal with SAD

It is important that once a person in recovery recognizes that they are suffering from SAD, they start treating it with safe and healthy ways. The first order of business is the check in with a physician, psychiatrist, or therapist to ensure that there aren’t other issues causing depression. If there aren’t other issues, then SAD can be addressed at home.

Some effective methods for relieving the symptoms of SAD include:

Essential Oils

Essential oils can have profound physiological and psychological effects, especially on endorphins, hormones, and enzymes that promote physical and mental well-being. They have even been shown to have the effect of an antidepressant on depressive disorders.

Light Therapy

Light boxes are known to significantly help with SAD symptoms, as it mimics the rays of the sun. Boxes can be purchased online from various retailers. Individuals suffering from depression just have to sit in front of a lightbox for 30 to 60 minutes a day to help alleviate their symptoms.


Practicing mindfulness meditation has been proven to relieve symptoms of depression. Some healthcare professionals even consider it as an alternative to long-term antidepressant medication.

No one should have to sludge through the cold months. If the above suggestions do not work, individuals should reach out to their doctor or therapist for additional SAD treatment recommendations. A healthcare professional will be able to provide methods for relieving the symptoms of SAD and help the individual get back to a healthy recovery.

If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, Mountainside can help.
Click here or call (888) 833-4676 to speak with one of our addiction treatment experts.