Seasonal Depression: Ways It Could Be Affecting Your Recovery and How to Fight It

Around this time of year the weather has become crisper, more chilled and less sunlight has set. Daylight Savings Time means that nights arrive earlier and the winter months in and of themselves means darker days are ahead. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) affects approximately 4-6% of people in the United States. The Northern regions are most likely to experience this since they are further from the equator and while symptoms may vary depending on the person, some common effects are a change in appetite, irritability, isolation, feelings of guilt or hopelessness and physical symptoms, such as headaches.

Those in addiction recovery already experience some of these symptoms due to withdrawal and the overall process of change, but SAD can add upon an extra layer of stress as one navigates the winter and holiday season.


Mental Health America (MHA) states that the reduced sunlight experienced by those in northern regions may experience the following changes:

  1. Circadian rhythm – also known as our biological clock, lack of sunlight could disrupt our body’s system.
  2. Serotonin – sunlight increases our serotonin levels, which are responsible for regulating mood, social behavior, appetite and digestion, sleep, sexual desire and more. During the winter months, when sunlight is reduced, we may experience a drop in some or all of these areas.
  3. Melatonin – darkness promotes our bodies to produce more melatonin, which regulates sleep. This is a prime reason why during the winter time, we feel more tired and lethargic.
  4. Vitamin D – we get our vitamin D from the sun and this is what gives us strong bones. When less sunlight is available, we may become weaker and more brittle.

Forms of light therapy are best for people with SAD, but in addiction recovery, you may not have direct access to this type of service. In these instances, it’s best to keep your lights on in your room and make sure that you’re getting plenty of exercise. Eat healthy foods and drink plenty of water and continue socializing with those in your program. Experiencing SAD while in addiction recovery can be challenging, but it’s not something that will make or break you. Don’t give up.

Cumberland Heights is a nonprofit alcohol and drug-addiction treatment center located on the banks of the Cumberland river in Nashville, Tennessee. On a sprawling 177-acre campus, we are made up of 2 12-Step immersion campuses, 12 outpatient recovery centers and 4 sober living homes. We believe that each person has a unique story to tell – and that’s why we always put the patient first.

Call us today at 1-800-646-9998 to take the next step towards your happiness and health.