Each year, about 20 million Americans struggle with alcohol or substance abuse. Even more alarming, a very small number of those struggling seek out a treatment plan.
It can be difficult to find the root of a substance abuse problem. It can be even more difficult to reach out to someone for support.
The holidays are an exciting time for many. But they can also be difficult for people struggling with substance abuse or mental illness.
Seasonal affective disorder especially impacts many people during these times that seem merry and bright for most. If you have a loved one struggling with drug or alcohol addiction, you may be wondering how you can support them this holiday season.
Keep reading for more about addiction, holiday depression, and what you can do to be supportive and loving this holiday season.
What Is Seasonal Affective Disorder?
As the days get shorter and it gets darker outside earlier each day, many people fall into a depression, making it difficult to enjoy life and function normally.
This depression is otherwise known as seasonal affective disorder, the “winter blues”. Many people thrive on the summer months and sunshine, and these cold, dark months can be painful.
Some signs of this type of depression include irritability, lack of sleep, and loss of interest in regular activities or hobbies. Especially if someone is struggling with substance abuse, this can take a huge toll on their mental and physical health.
Luckily, light therapy has been a great help to those who struggle with this. It mimics the effects of natural light from the sun as relief for seasonal affective disorder.
However, others may need to use the lightbox in combination with psychotherapy or depression medication. Everyone is different, so it’s best to first talk to a doctor to find what’s best.
Substance Abuse Holiday Challenges
The holiday season can be a difficult time for anyone, aside from seasonal affective disorder. Many people during this time struggle with financial problems, grief, loneliness, and more.
There are many expectations during the holidays, and many people have severe stress when they feel like they aren’t meeting every single one.
People struggling with addiction or alcohol abuse may especially struggle with holidays. Because of the emotional stress people can experience during this time, they may start to depend on alcohol or other substances as a relief.
You might be wondering why this particular time of year is so difficult for people struggling with substance abuse and how it impacts them. Let’s break down some of the main challenges that they face.
Pressure to Overindulge
We all know that during the holiday season, most people give themselves the excuse to eat and drink — well, whatever they want. While there is nothing wrong with this, it can be a trigger for those struggling with addiction.
If everyone around them is drinking alcohol no matter where they go, it can be hard not to give in and want to join them.
There can be a lot of pressure on making the most out of these holiday events, and that can get overwhelming.
Out of a Routine
Many people travel home for the holidays, which means they’re away from their own home for an extended time. Being away from home can mean being out of a routine.
For people with addiction or any other mental illness, many rely on routines to stay on track and cope. Being thrown out of a routine can trigger impulsive behaviors and keep people from continuing their progress.
Having a healthy eating routine, workout schedule, or regular therapy appointments may be thrown off during holiday time from traveling and other events.
Difficult Family Relationships
While many people look forward to spending time with family and loved ones over the holidays, this isn’t the case for everyone. People with addiction or substance abuse sometimes have strained family relationships.
If they’re feeling extra stress or anxiety about these relationships, they might feel more tempted to use drugs or alcohol to cope. It is often emotional stressors that can trigger substance abuse.
One of the biggest stressors for many people during the holidays is financial struggles. From buying gifts for loved ones to travel expenses and unpaid time off of work, many people might be struggling to make ends meet.
If you have a loved one struggling with addiction, they also may not be working right now or making a steady income. They probably feel embarrassed and ashamed enough about this, and expectations from family members can make them feel worse.
Feeling shameful about their financial status may even drive them away to family gatherings, leading them to avoid seeing family altogether. They may even choose to stay home alone this holiday.
Tips From Professionals
You may be wondering what your loved ones can do to keep themselves safe, happy, and healthy this holiday season. There are many things people can do to prepare themselves for possibly stressful situations.
Mental health professionals recommend being aware of triggers when around family and loved ones. It can be hard to identify triggers at first, but they can always get support from a therapist or local treatment center.
It’s also important to avoid toxic situations and isolation during stressful times. Toxic situations can easily cause a relapse due to overwhelming negative emotions and stress.
Isolation can also be a harmful trigger. When someone is alone, painful emotions or intrusive thoughts may come up. Some may also recall memories of past substance abuse.
It’s important to stay surrounded by supportive people who want to help them stay on track and will offer comfort in stressful family situations.
Support Your Loved Ones This Season
Both seasonal affective disorder and addiction with holiday depression can be very painful during the holiday season. If you are looking for helpful ways to support a loved one who is struggling, we’re here to help.
Most importantly, you should always try to have compassion. Remember that addiction is a disease, no different than a physical or mental illness.
Your loved ones will be needing your support and compassion more than ever during the holiday season. If you’re looking for more ways to help, as substance abuse and holidays may go hand in hand, visit our site today and read our suggestions.
We hope that you and your family can find strength and peace this holiday season.