Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a form of depression that typically impacts people who may not get enough exposure to natural sunlight during the winter months when the sun’s rays are weaker. Symptoms of SAD include the following:
- Feeling depressed, joyless, or hopeless
- Changes in eating habits or weight, especially weight gain
- Changes in sleep patterns, usually sleeping more
- Unusual, persistent fatigue
- Being unable to focus or concentrate
- Disinterest in former hobbies or interests, or in work
- Isolating self from friends and family
- Irritability or agitation
More women than men are impacted by SAD, which affects 4 to 6 percent of Americans severely and 10 to 20 percent in a more mild form. While some adolescents do have symptoms, most are over age 20 when they develop the disorder. Seniors over age 60 rarely develop SAD for the first time, but it can develop at any time during adulthood, even if sufferers have never had it before.
Treatment of SAD and Its Connection to Substance Abuse Disorder
One way that people try to treat their own SAD is to use drugs or alcohol, which can sometimes at first lighten their mood and temporarily make them feel better. As with most self-medicating efforts, however, the effects often fade and sometimes turn into a substance abuse disorder. Eating disorders can also be related to SAD if sufferers use food to self-medicate.
There are several treatments for SAD, including exposure to more natural light, using a lightbox to simulate natural light in very dark and remote areas, and Vitamin D supplementation for those who are deficient. People suffering from SAD should eat healthy foods and exercise as part of their treatment, which can help them avoid mood and energy crashes that can exacerbate other symptoms.
Lightbox treatment is only effective for about 50 percent of SAD sufferers; effectiveness is usually apparent within about a month. When lightbox treatment is not effective, antidepressants are sometimes used during fall, winter, and early spring months, but usually are not needed all year long since symptoms are cyclical according to the strengthening and weakening of sunlight.
Dual Diagnosis Treatment for SAD and Substance Abuse
About 20 percent of those with SAD also have a co-occurring substance abuse disorder that requires treatment. Addressing the two disorders together is more effective than only treating the substance abuse, and will be more impactful for a person’s overall health and well-being.
Comprehensive treatment for SAD and substance abuse will help prevent relapse and will help sufferers manage their lives better after treatment. Recovery Village is a Colorado drug rehab that offers comprehensive dual diagnosis treatment for both addiction and a variety of other disorders including depression, anxiety, mental health, smoking cessation, and SAD. If you or any of your loved ones are suffering from addiction and one or more co-occurring disorders, contact us for more information about how Recovery Village can help with treatment from detox to outpatient aftercare.