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What Is Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)?

Written on February 10, 2022
What Is Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)?

Do you feel moody during a specific season of the year? If so, it is not uncommon, and you might be suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). This disorder is often associated with seasonal changes when individuals start to feel depressed. The depression typically begins during the fall season and gets worse during winter. Some people may experience depressive episodes during the spring and summer months as well. According to the American Psychiatric Association, about 5% of adults in the U.S. suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder. It can be pretty normal for some people to be moody during the winter months (winter blues), but Seasonal Affective Disorder may go beyond that.

What Are the Symptoms?

Seasonal Affective Disorder is a form of depression that affects individuals’ daily lives, including how they think or feel. Not every person with SAD will experience all of the symptoms, but some of the commonly found symptoms of SAD include:

  • Feeling moody, sad, or listless every day throughout the season
  • Feeling sluggish with low energy
  • Loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Overeating, experiencing a craving for carbohydrates, and weight gain
  • Feeling guilty and worthless
  • Having suicidal thoughts
  • Oversleeping or trouble sleeping
  • Increased irritability

The Relationship between SAD and Substance Abuse

When symptoms of depression present themselves, many self-medicate with substances like alcohol and drugs. Those struggling to find the energy to do everyday tasks often turn to stimulants to help them get through the day. Those seeking to numb the pain associated with depression often do so with drugs like opioids or alcohol. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, 20 percent of Americans with an anxiety or mood disorder such as depression have an alcohol or other substance use disorder. Unfortunately, the use of alcohol and drugs may worsen the symptoms of SAD, but there are ways to seek treatment.

Treating SAD and Substance Abuse

When someone suffers from a mental health disorder alongside a substance use disorder, it is essential that both conditions are treated simultaneously. If the addiction is left untreated, the substance abuse is likely to interfere with the ability to take steps to improve their mental health. If only the substance use disorder is treated, their Seasonal Affective Disorder will likely cause them to relapse due to the stress and hopelessness often felt.

Diagnosing Seasonal Affective Disorder can be difficult, but if you or someone you know is struggling, it is worth seeking help. The treatment for SAD will vary depending on the severity of your symptoms, and your treatment may also be different if you have another bipolar or depression disorder. Your health care provider will talk to you about your treatment options, and they may recommend combining behavioral therapy, Vitamin D, antidepressant medication, spending time outdoors, and a handful of other approaches.

Addiction Recovery Services with Flatirons Recovery

At Flatirons Recovery, we deliver compassionate evidence-based treatment for addiction and mental health disorders. We focus on the individual as a whole and help patients on every step while traveling down their road to recovery. If you or someone you love is ready to take action, contact us to get more treatment information from our professionals.