Many people mourn the loss of warm, bright summer weather, but some may take seasonal changes harder than others. If you notice a profound shift in your mood as the days get longer and colder, you may have a condition known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD). And if you have SAD, you may also be at a higher risk for addiction.
If you suspect you are experiencing SAD and addiction, contact the caring team at Promises Brazos Valley at 979.426.0086. Our addiction treatment programs can be customized to treat SAD and other co-occurring conditions often accompanying substance misuse.
What Is Seasonal Affective Disorder?
Seasonal affective disorder is a subtype of depression that typically exhibits a recurring pattern, usually during fall and winter. There are several contributors this time of year that may play into seasonal depression:
- Shorter days
- Reduced exposure to sunlight
- Colder temperatures
- More time spent indoors
- Less activity overall
SAD comes with many symptoms of other depressive disorders—including sadness, fatigue, weight gain, change in appetite, and difficulty concentrating. Although seasonal affective disorder typically occurs for a few months out of the year, it can significantly impact one’s daily functioning and overall well-being.
The Relationship Between Seasonal Affective Disorder and Addiction
The correlation between seasonal affective disorder and addiction is complex but unmistakable. People suffering from SAD often self-medicate with unhealthy coping mechanisms, including drug or alcohol misuse. Several factors that demonstrate the relationship between SAD and addiction are the following.
Some people turn to drugs or alcohol to numb the symptoms of SAD. These substances temporarily relieve depressive symptoms, creating a false sense of well-being. However, this approach can quickly lead to dependence and addiction, worsening the initial depressive symptoms.
SAD can induce hopelessness, isolation, and desolation, making people desperate to escape these overwhelming emotions. Substance misuse provides a temporary escape from reality, which can numb the pain associated with seasonal affective disorder. Unfortunately, this escape is short-lived, and addiction can exacerbate depression and instigate other health problems.
Disrupted Biological Rhythms
Seasonal affective disorder can disrupt the circadian rhythm, making a person more vulnerable to substance misuse and addiction. The biological factors that correlate with SAD, such as hormonal imbalances, disrupted sleep patterns, and reduced serotonin levels, can also influence the reward and pleasure centers of the brain. When levels of feel-good hormones like serotonin and dopamine are low, a person may be more likely to compensate by using drugs or alcohol to elevate levels of these brain neurotransmitters.
Do You Need Help for Seasonal Affective Disorder and Addiction?
Some people suffer from seasonal affective disorder without realizing it. Recognizing the signs of this condition can help you understand why you feel the way you do and prompt you to seek the help needed to manage your symptoms. Some signs that may indicate SAD include:
- Often feeling sad or hopeless
- Unexplained irritability or becoming easily irritated
- Carbohydrate cravings and weight gain
- Frequently feeling fatigued, even without physical exertion
- Feeling tired regardless of how much sleep you get
- Having difficulty sleeping throughout the night
- Excessive sleeping and chronic grogginess
- Loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed
It is normal to experience the above symptoms occasionally, especially on the longer, darker winter days. But when your symptoms persist, you may struggle with seasonal affective disorder. Some of the above symptoms can also apply to addiction. Substance misuse can deplete your energy, cause self-isolation, and disrupt sleep patterns. Suppose you spot the above signs in yourself or a loved one using drugs or alcohol. In that case, it may be time to schedule an assessment with a medical professional to determine if you need treatment for SAD and addiction.
Overcome SAD and Addiction at Promises Brazos Valley
Seasonal affective order and addiction can create a vicious cycle of self-medication to manage low mood and energy. Both conditions can worsen without proper treatment, so you must seek help. Contact Promises Brazos Valley at 979.426.0086 or fill out our online form and learn how we can help you break free from SAD and addiction.