During seasonal depression, people feel sad, short of energy, and lacking in motivation. It’s as if a dark cloud comes over them as the days get shorter. It brings out a temporary, but no less serious, depression.
The challenge with depression is in the behaviors it can trigger. Some turn to drugs or alcohol to feel better. When they do, it can lead to physical dependence or addiction. If this happens to you, Northern Illinois Recovery Center can provide the treatment resources you need to help.
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What is Seasonal Depression?
Seasonal depression typically begins in the fall and lifts with the seasons shift toward spring and summer. However, for some, the patterns are reversed: Seasonal depression begins and ends in the warmer weather months.
Researchers don’t yet know what causes seasonal depression. But they do have some ideas. The main line of thought is the reduced amount of sunlight disrupts certain rhythms or chemistries in the body — perhaps causing a drop in serotonin levels, for instance. The process reverses as the sunlight begins to grow longer.
How do you know if you’re suffering from seasonal depression? Here are some signals, according to the Centers for Disease Control:
- Extended sense of depression lasting most of the day
- Disrupted sleep
- Changes in appetite or weight
- Hopelessness, worthlessness, or guilt
- Contemplating suicide
The risk of substance abuse during seasonal depression increases.
Ways to Overcome Seasonal Depression
Sometimes seasonal depression is severe, requiring help from a trained therapist. Other times, though, it’s less severe — and there are things you can do to help yourself. Some self-help steps include:
- Maximize the sunshine. Make a point of bundling up and taking a short walk every day.
- Exercise regularly. Buy an exercise bike or a treadmill, or jump rope; it gets your endorphins going and counters the depression.
- Eat right. You don’t help yourself if you eat poorly, as it makes you more tired and grumpy.
- Try aromatherapy. It can stimulate areas of the brain that counteract seasonal depression.
- Schedule a vacation getaway. Having something to look forward to will occupy your mind more than the darkness.
Consider also getting help from a therapist. Talk therapy or even medication can help you through this period.
Staying Sober and Safe
The risk of seasonal depression is that it can tip into something more serious. How does that happen? Someone with seasonal depression may be desperate to find a way out. Unfortunately, sometimes that way out is in the form of drugs or alcohol.
These substances may provide a moment’s peace. But the relief is temporary. Then a person consumes more drugs or alcohol, beginning a cycle that can go downhill very quickly. It can lead to physical dependence. And when seasonal disorder turns into substance abuse, you will likely need help from a treatment or rehab facility such as Northern Illinois Recovery Center.
Treatment Options at Northern Illinois Recovery Center
Licensed Physician and Surgeon
Dr. Beth Dunlap, a board-certified addiction medicine and family medicine physician, and is the medical director at Northern Illinois Recovery Center. She is responsible for overseeing all the integrated medical services at both campuses. Beth completed medical school, residency, and fellowship at Northwestern University, where she continues to serve on the faculty as a member of the Department of Family and Community Medicine. She has extensive experience in addiction medicine at all levels of care, and her clinical interests include integrated primary care and addiction medicine, harm reduction, and medication-assisted treatment.