Psychological Effects of the Season on Your Recovery

Psychological Effects of the Season on Your Recovery

Research shows humans are significantly affected by weather and seasonal change

Scientific research shows seasonal differences in the weather and sunlight can alter a person’s brain chemistry and depress moods. Knowing the best ways to manage seasonal changes can go a long way toward preventing mood changes and avoiding stress and temptation to go back to drugs like Xanax.

Seasonal Trends and Recovery

Research shows humans are significantly affected by weather and seasonal change. Behavior studies, for example, show changing light patterns affect mood and health according to a paper published by the University of Alaska, Anchorage Justice Center. The researchers also found that drug use might vary by season. While researchers found a modest increase of marijuana use during the summer, cocaine use remained relatively constant. Data for the study came from drug test results from people arrested and booked in Anchorage, Alaska. So while varying weather patterns and sunshine may dramatically affect certain aspects of human behavior, some drug use may have a stronger association with cultural patterns than seasonal changes.

Even so emotions and feelings affect a person’s decisions and could impact a person’s desire to stay sober. Staying aware of personal symptoms can help a person prepare for temptations to use substances according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). A day-to-day schedule full of drug-free activities keeps a person on track especially during times of changes such as the holidays or illness. Making a schedule is an individualized process. An effective schedule includes some or all of the following events according to SAMHSA

  • Treatment activities
  • Recreational activities
  • Group or individual therapy
  • Work or school
  • Hobbies
  • Social activities with drug-free friends
  • Planning period for making schedule
  • Exercise
  • Family-related events
  • Spiritual activities

It’s important to fill a schedule with personalized activities that are enjoyable and relaxing. People who make unrealistic schedules or unbalanced schedules may be setting themselves up for failure.

Seasonal Affective Disorder and Recovery

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a common type of depression brought on by the weather. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) notes that SAD includes recurring episodes of depression usually during late fall and winter alternating with periods of normal or high mood for the rest of the year. For people who struggle with addiction, SAD may be made worse by drug or alcohol use.

Depression, like other mental health disorders, commonly co-occurs with addiction to drugs like Xanx. At least 8.9 million adults have a mental health issue in addition to a substance use disorder according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). An integrated treatment model that covers addiction and mental health issues results in better outcomes and lower costs.

Symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder

Seasonal Affective Disorder has several common symptoms. This type of depression is generally associated with lower light levels during winter. NAMI outlines the following general symptoms of the disorder:

  • Oversleeping
  • Daytime fatigue
  • Carbohydrate craving
  • Weight gain

Other less common symptoms include lowered sexual interest, lethargy, hopelessness, suicidal thoughts, lost interest in normal activities and decreased socialization.

Treating Seasonal Affective Disorder

Since depression and other seasonal mood changes are associated with substance use, it’s important to treat both conditions at the same time. NAMI notes a person with SAD may not need psychiatric drugs and may benefit from light therapy. An effective treatment for the disorder exposes a person to daily light, which simulates high-intensity sunlight. By sitting in front of a light box for around 30 minutes a day, a person may be able to alleviate depression symptoms without the use of drugs. For more severe cases psychological counseling in conjunction with medication may be necessary.

Another study published in the International Journal of Neuroscience explored the idea that some mood changes are due to seasonal fluctuations that affect natural regulation of the sleep cycle. The researchers studied a 25-year-old with SAD and cravings for cocaine that coincided with low light levels. They suggested light therapy might help both conditions. Since the pineal gland regulates sleep and also is associated with cocaine’s effects on the brain, a therapy that restores the pineal gland to normal function could help people with co-occurring conditions.

Need Help Finding Treatment for Addiction?

Addiction treatment for drugs like Xanax must take into account the whole person, mentally, physically and spiritually. While drug addictions are serious, there are many effective treatments that help a person cope with the effects of the disease. Since communication is such a crucial part of addiction treatment, it’s important that a person struggling with addiction be honest about all of his symptoms.

If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, please call our toll-free helpline. Our addiction coordinators are trained to offer advice and provide guidance about the best possible treatment options. We help people overcome addictions with a philosophy that addresses the whole person. Call our toll-free helpline 24 hours a day for advice. Don’t struggle alone. Call us today.

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