Seasonal changes are known to negatively affect some people’s mental health. Winter, in particular, is a time when seasonal affective disorder (SAD) rears its ugly head. If you are one of the millions of Americans affected by the disorder, it is important to take extra care of yourself to prevent it from happening.
What Is Mental Health?
Mental health refers to your emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how you think, feel, behave, make choices, handle stress, and interact with others. Mental health challenges can cause you to experience mood or behavioral changes and may make poor decisions under stress.
SAD and Your Mental Well-Being
Seasonal affective disorder is a form of depression related to changes in the seasons. A variety of symptoms start showing up at the beginning and end of winter when people tend to hibernate. This happens around the same time each year, usually November to March. Those affected in the cold seasons are said to have winter-pattern depression, which can negatively impact how they handle activities of daily life. Scientists suspect a drop in serotonin levels due to less sunlight during wintertime causes mood changes in individuals affected by SAD.
Signs of Mental Health Changes in Winter
The signs and symptoms of winter-pattern seasonal affective disorder are recurrent. Some common symptoms mimic the symptoms of major depressive disorder:
- Sadness or feeling “down”
- Social withdrawal
- Anxiety or irritability
- Extreme fatigue or oversleeping
- Feeling hopeless or worthless
- Overeating and weight gain (from craving and eating high carb foods)
- Losing interest in activities you once enjoyed
Winter’s adverse effects on your mental or emotional health usually subside by the start of spring. If it does not, it’s important to talk to your healthcare provider or therapist right away, especially if you experience severe depressive symptoms such as thoughts of harming yourself or suicide.
Why Mental Health Is Important to Well-Being
Mental health changes that interfere with how you feel, think, act, and make decisions can affect your overall ability to function daily. Practicing self-care can help improve depression symptoms. For example:
- Get plenty of sleep: Adults need seven to eight hours of sleep a night to maintain good mental and physical health.
- Get sunlight whenever possible: Whenever the sun comes out, step outside or pull your curtain and let the sunlight in. Sunlight increases serotonin levels. Serotonin is a hormone that helps stabilizes your mood and promotes a sense of well-being and happiness.
- Exercise daily: Try to exercise daily or at least a few times a week to boost energy. The happy hormone endorphins are released during exercise and may help lift your mood.
- Talk to your doctor: Discuss your symptoms with your doctor if they become overwhelming or debilitating. Your doctor may prescribe antidepressant medications to help improve your mood.
While medications help, some people start abusing prescription drugs, alcohol, or illicit drugs to cope. Seasonal affective disorder can also worsen substance abuse disorder in those affected by drug or alcohol addiction.
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Treatment in Texas
Treatments are available to help you or your loved one affected by seasonal changes. Current approved treatments include light therapy, medication therapy, and cognitive-behavioral therapy. San Antonio Recovery Center is a drug and alcohol rehab that can provide dual diagnosis treatment if you are affected by seasonal depression and substance abuse or prescription drug abuse. Our comprehensive treatment programs and therapies include:
- Drug and alcohol detox program
- Residential treatment
- Intensive outpatient
- Behavioral therapies
- Family therapy
- Recreational therapy
We continue to help men and women overcome depression, substance abuse, and other co-occurring mental disorders that threaten their well-being. Our certified doctors and behavioral therapists will follow an integrative treatment plan to address your needs through our rehab and aftercare programs. Start your recovery today. Call 866.957.7885, or contact us online for more information.