A man worried about SAD and addiction

SAD and Addiction

The effects of seasonal affective disorder (SAD) are too often minimized because of the disorder’s cyclical nature. The truth is that SAD can be debilitating for some people and may increase their risk of developing an addiction disorder. Mental health treatment can ease the symptoms of SAD. 

Contact Promises today at 844.875.5609 for more information about seasonal affective disorder and addiction.

What Is SAD?

Seasonal affective disorder is a type of depression associated with a lack of sunlight and changes in an individual’s circadian rhythm (internal clock). About 5% of adults in the U.S. experience some level of SAD, according to the American Psychiatric Association. 

It may be surprising to learn that many of those people report their symptoms continue for approximately 40% of the year. People who live farthest away from the equator, where sunshine hours are most limited, have higher rates of SAD.

Symptoms of SAD

SAD is classified as a major depressive disorder with a seasonal pattern. As such, a diagnosis must meet the same criteria for major depressive disorder. Symptoms include:

  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Lethargy, fatigue
  • Changes in eating or sleeping patterns
  • Agitation, irritability
  • Lack of interest in favorite activities
  • Feelings of worthlessness
  • Problems concentrating
  • Physical symptoms, such as pain, headaches, or digestive upsets
  • Suicidal ideation

SAD that is associated with colder seasons may also include carb cravings and withdrawing socially as symptoms. Though rare, some people experience SAD in the summer months. Symptoms more closely associated with warm-weather SAD may include eating less than normal, feeling anxious, or experiencing violent outbursts. 

Women, people with existing mood disorders, and those with a family history of SAD are at a higher risk of developing the disorder.

Seasonal Affective Disorder and Addiction

Depression does not “cause” addiction disorders, but there is a symbiotic relationship between depression and substance abuse. The National Institute on Drug Abuse estimates that of the 42.1 million adults with a mental health disorder, approximately 18% of them also have a substance use disorder. 

Which comes first: seasonal affective disorder or substance use disorder? It can be difficult to say. Some individuals may turn to alcohol or drugs to relieve the symptoms of SAD. Overusing drugs or alcohol can lead to dependence and a substance use disorder. 

On the other hand, having a substance use disorder can lead to unhelpful lifestyle habits, such as staying indoors and isolating, which increase the risk of developing SAD. 

SAD and Addiction: Co-Occurring Disorders

When SAD and addiction occur together, it is known as having co-occurring conditions. Fortunately, co-occurring conditions respond well to a combination of treatments. A treatment program for SAD and addiction would likely include:

  • Detox treatment
  • Medication
  • Light therapy
  • Psychotherapy
  • Lifestyle changes, such as exercising and normalizing sleep patterns
  • Aftercare programs, such as sober living 
  • Relapse prevention education

Each person’s situation is unique. An individualized treatment program that addresses specific issues is considered to be the most effective approach. 

After an evaluation and diagnosis, you and your healthcare professionals will craft a plan that meets your individual needs. It likely will include the options of individual and group therapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy, family therapy, and more.

Promises Offers Treatment for SAD and Addiction

Promises Behavioral Health offers treatments for all types of mood disorders, including SAD. We understand that struggling with a mental health concern can make a recovery from substance use disorder more complex. We offer the resources and experience to help you meet your wellness goal. 

Our friendly, non-judgmental team is committed to helping our clients overcome the obstacles that prevent them from enjoying a happy, healthy life. Call Promises today at 844.875.5609 for more information about our treatment programs.

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