Alcohol and Seasonal Depression - Toronto Sun

TORONTO SUN: For those struggling with alcohol addiction, things can get dark by the bottom of the glass. But when you add in that it’s also dark outside from less daylight hours in winter, that can be a recipe for disaster.

“Seasonal Affective Disorder affects about 15% of the population in Canada”  – LINDSAY KILLIAM, CLINICAL PROGRAM DIRECTOR FOR ALAVIDA

A Toronto alcohol addiction expert says that alcoholics that suffer from seasonal depression face greater temptation around the holiday season when drinking rates skyrocket—from open-bar office holiday parties to alcohol-fueled family gatherings, alcohol sales peak between Dec. 6 and Jan. 2 – but also when it’s dark outside.

“Seasonal Affective Disorder affects about 15% of the population in Canada,” said Lindsay Killiam, the clinical program director for Alavida, a science-based company that combines medication and behavioural therapy that allows patients to drink socially, which recently expanded its services to Toronto.

“Those are people who experience as what we associate as ‘Winter Blues’ and about 2% to 6% of those people experience a more severe form of SAD, so it does affect a fair number of the population and more common in women at about 80%. When people feel those feelings, they often stop doing the self-care pieces that help them to feel better.”

For many people with seasonal depression, alcohol is both a coping mechanism and a depressant. People may turn to the bottle because they are depressed, they feel better temporarily, and then eventually feel as (or more) depressed as they did before they started drinking, said Killam.“Often, people experience a problematic relationship with alcohol also concurrently and have had struggles with depression and anxiety,” she said. “When the weather is crummy, there’s already vulnerability there. But there’s also a vulnerability that arises from stress from the holidays.”

She suggests a few strategies to not just survive the holidays, but thrive during them. For one, don’t use alcohol to cope with your depression.  It can be tempting to turn to drinking as a response to the many stressors of the holiday season, but booze is a depressant and often leaves you feeling worse the next day.

Next, be sure to stay active and get some fresh air.“On a daily self-care basis, to get some exercise or to use light therapy or to orient their office space to be close to a window,” said Killiam. “Instead of coming home and cracking open a bottle of wine, maybe cooking a healthy meal instead.” Lean on your support system, including reaching out to friends or family members and be aware that it’s OK to say no to every party invite you get. But Killiam said don’t use it as an excuse to be a lump on the couch either, you could end up having fun.

Finally, if you need, don’t be afraid to seek professional help. Let your doctor or therapist know you’re having a tough time, she said.

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