Some individuals find that their interest in alcohol is cyclical. It’s attractiveness seems to peak during the darker, colder months of autumn and winter, and then retracts as the summer warms up and more time is spent outside in the warmth and light of the sun. Drinking is not a problem unless it’s a problem, and therein lies the predicament as consistent use and binging begins to occur. It can be sneaky as it slowly slides into your social life, evening relaxation routine, and eventually begins to overtake your life. But when a person really analyzes why this is happening, it ultimately boils down to self-medicating in order to combat against a general feeling of sadness and a dismal outlook and perspective on life.
There could be a hidden reason behind this behavior. It is related to a rare but very real constellation of symptoms known as seasonal affective disorder, or SAD.
Those who are susceptible to substance abuse will find that they might be qualified for a dual-diagnosis of seasonal affective disorder and substance abuse in the cold, dark months of the year. SAD is a depression disorder that is cyclical and related to the changes in the seasons. This seasonal basis is usually related to the decrease in light exposure during shorter days, cloudier skies, and colder months that inspire people to stay inside for warmth. There is the suspicion of an even more rare form of SAD that occurs in the spring and summer as well.
Like a more common depression, the symptoms of SAD can include the following:
It is thought that about 6% of people suffer with seasonal affective disorder, but possibly higher since many people are inaccurately diagnosed or not at all. Many simply deal with the symptoms since they feel they are temporary or not acute enough to require a trip to the doctor.
In the case we are talking about, many people choose to self-medicate through the use of drugs and more often alcohol due to it’s ease of access.
People who are at risk of dealing with SAD, and therefore with alcoholism during this time, are those included in the following:
Individuals should do their best to stop self-medicating using illicit or legal drugs. The alleviation of symptoms are typically not reduced but only masked and this masking does not last long. Addiction can set in that can ensnare you year round.
The most effective treatment is to increase exposure to light of a wavelength that mimics that of natural sunlight. Companies have begun designing light-boxes for this very purpose that you can sit in front of for 15 to 30 minutes per day during these dark months. Longer periods can be used if your depression is resistant to the shorter exposures.
If light therapy alone doesn’t solve the issue, it can be used in combination with more typical depression treatments such as medication and psychotherapy. Light boxes can be had for as little as one hundred dollars, or proper LED bulbs can be purchased for even less from reputable sellers. Starting with this method is wise as symptom reduction can occur within 5 days of use.