The Connection Between Winter and Mental Health

"Wooden Wall" by StockSnap via Pixabay (CC0 Creative Commons)

"Wooden Wall" by StockSnap via Pixabay (CC0 Creative Commons)

There is a scientifically proven connection between the shorter days and longer nights of the winter months and mental health disorders, with more people reporting symptoms towards the end of the year than at any other time. But what is it that makes us more susceptible to mental health issues at winter time? There are never any straightforward answers when it comes to mental illness as the experience is different for every individual. That said, there are a few theories as to why these issues manifest themselves more when it’s cold outside than at any other time of the year.

Pre-Existing History of Mental Health Disorders

One of the reasons mental health issues can become heightened in certain individuals in winter is if something triggers an underlying issue or a disorder that was diagnosed in the past. Often the colder seasons, where many of us find ourselves trudging to work in the dark and returning home in the dark, it can have a physical impact on us. We find ourselves feeling increasingly unwilling to leave our beds in the morning and a lot of us may binge on comfort food to compensate for having to spend nights at home because of the weather.

For people with a history of mental illness, this can be sufficient to trigger conditions such as depression, anxiety, and PTSD. Nearly all of us will suffer from something known as seasonal affective disorder, or appropriately SAD, to some degree or another. However, whereas most of us will have returned to our usual perky selves by the spring, others may find themselves struggling to cope and may be in need of mental health treatment.

Addiction Issues Triggered by Seasonal Festivities

There is a close connection between mental health issues and addiction and this is because prolonged alcoholism or substance abuse can create the symptoms of mental disorders. Many people struggling with addiction find it difficult to face the temptation of festivities like the office party or Thanksgiving because of the presence of alcohol. This is a particularly challenging situation for an addict or someone in recovery from addiction as they have two options, both of which can lead to relapse and also mental health complications.

They can either avoid parties altogether from November through to around March and risk becoming withdrawn and depressed or even self-medicate to help them through the season; or they can take part and run the risk of giving in to temptation on the premise that it’s just once a year.  Either way, the anxiety of the winter months and all the party action they bring is very challenging for people with addiction issues.

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