Seasonal Affective Disorder, also called SAD, is a disorder that affects 10 million Americans every year. It is also referred to as winter blues as it occurs mostly during fall and winter, though it can also occur in summer and spring.
Many studies link SAD with substance abuse due to the fact that they often provoke each other. If you or a loved one suffers from SAD and addiction, it’s essential to know how they are related. Here is some information about SAD and its relationship with substance abuse.
What is Seasonal Affective Disorder?
According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, SAD is a type of major depression. Although many people think that it’s normal to feel a little down or sad during the cold seasons, Seasonal Affective Disorder is not something to be taken lightly. It can become severe and impact a person’s daily routine and living.
Seasonal Affective Disorder Symptoms
The symptoms of major depression include the following:
- Feelings of Hopelessness and Worthlessness
- Lack of Interest in Activities
- Increased Fatigue and Lethargy
- Lack of Alertness
- Sleep Problems
- Changes in Weight and Appetite
- Suicidal Thoughts
- Suicidal Attempts
Those who suffer from SAD during the cold seasons may experience:
- Lack of Energy
- Excessive Eating
- Weight Gain
- Carb Cravings
- Hibernating or Withdrawing from Social Interactions
People affected by SAD during the warm seasons may experience:
- Loss of Appetite
- Weight Loss
- Difficulty Sleeping
- Anxiety Attacks
- Violent Reactions
What Are the Risk Factors
Studies have proven that people who live farther from the equator are more likely to experience symptoms and develop Seasonal Affective Disorder. Here are some of the risk factors:
- Mood Disorders – Those who already have existing mental disorders, including bipolar disorder and depression, are more prone to SAD. However, they can only be diagnosed with SAD if the frequency of seasonal depressive episodes outnumbers the non-seasonal ones.
- Genetic Factors – People with family members diagnosed with any type of depression are said to be more prone to SAD.
- Gender – SAD occurs in both men and women, but the latter is more likely to develop it. There are four times more women with SAD than men.
- Age – Although SAD can affect anyone regardless of age, it is more likely to occur in younger adults. Those between the age of 18 and 30 are at a higher risk.
What Causes Seasonal Affective Disorder
The exact causes of Seasonal Affective Disorder are still unknown, but some things appear to be involved. These things are related to the changes in the environment brought about by different seasons.
- Increase in Melatonin – Melatonin helps regulate people’s wake cycles and sleeping patterns. It is secreted at night or in dark conditions, which is the reason people experience an increase in melatonin during the winter months. The increase then leads to lethargy and oversleeping.
- Low Levels of Serotonin – Serotonin is a neurotransmitter responsible for feelings of happiness and wellbeing. Exposure to sunlight stimulates it. With less sunlight during cold months, the body produces less serotonin, making people more prone to SAD.
- Lack of Vitamin D – Vitamin D production is linked to the stimulation of serotonin. Both of which depend on sunlight. The insufficient levels of Vitamin D in the body during winter seasons trigger depressive symptoms, thus, increasing the likelihood of SAD.
The Relationship Between SAD and Addiction
According to a study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 33% of adults struggling with substance abuse also deal with different types of depression, including SAD.
There are also studies proving that people with addiction tend to misuse substances seasonally, and it may be due to SAD. The findings of a 2004 study suggest that people with alcohol addiction overuse alcohol seasonally.
Like many people who battle different mental health conditions, those with SAD tend to self-medicate using substances of abuse without knowing that it can worsen symptoms and lead to addiction in some cases.
Here are some of the effects of substances on people with SAD:
- Alcohol – Partly due to the carb cravings, many people with SAD turn to drinking alcohol. While this may keep depressive symptoms at bay, people may experience extreme sadness and lethargy as the alcohol leaves the body.
- Marijuana – People using marijuana may experience the same effects. Once the high subsides, the feelings of depression worsen. This leads to more severe symptoms of SAD.
- Stimulants – Those who use stimulants in hopes of relieving lethargy and fatigue brought about by SAD may experience severe depressive episodes. Like other substances, stimulants may cause greater feelings of depression to set in.
Seasonal Affective Disorder Treatment
The treatment of SAD for people with co-occurring substance abuse disorders often involves light therapy. The goal of light therapy is to make up for lesser amounts of sunlight during the winter seasons. For severe cases of SAD and addiction, the combination of therapy and medication may be the best option.
Customized treatment plans from recovery and rehab centers may also help people ward off SAD and addiction.
Let Haven House Recovery Center Help
If you’re dealing with addiction and SAD, Haven House Recovery Center is here to help you.
We develop distinct treatment plans to address the conditions of every person. We provide a nurturing, caring, and loving environment and help every person address issues in different aspects of life, including mental, social, physical, and emotional. For inquires, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us. We also have a recovery center near Nashville that you can visit. Call us today!