Seasonal Depression and Substance Abuse

How one Affects the Other

Seasonal Affective Disorder or ‘SAD’ is a type of depression that occurs during certain seasons, generally the colder, darker winter months. With fewer hours of daylight and below-freezing temperatures, many individuals have no choice but to be trapped inside their homes, inducing depression. What this can also prompt is substance abuse; an issue that many of those who have SAD struggle with.

All too often, those who struggle with SAD look for ways to self-medicate and could lead to drug and alcohol abuse. Since those who struggle with this form of depression have lower serotonin and melatonin levels, their quality of sleep is also affected. This can take a toll on the overall wellbeing of the individual and can influence them to drink or take drugs as a means to get a good nights sleep. This is a very dangerous cycle that can lead to addiction if it is not confronted.

Symptoms of SAD

There are various symptoms of SAD. those who suffer from seasonal affective disorder can show signs of:

  • Fatigue
  • Lack of joy
  • Hopelessness
  • No interest in hobbies
  • Become isolated
  • Loose focus
  • Increasingly irritable
  • Weight loss or weight gain

If you or someone you know is showing signs of struggling with SAD, help is available.

Drugs and alcohol work to exacerbate the symptoms that are associated with SAD, worsening them and putting the individual at an increased risk of addiction. When an individual who struggles with SAD gets into a severely depressive state, they are more likely to do anything to make themselves feel better and that often means turning to drugs or alcohol as a coping mechanism.

Managing the Disorder

If you struggle with seasonal affective disorder, there are various ways in which you can manage the symptoms that you endure. Basic things such as eating healthily, exercising regularly, keeping a steady sleeping routine, and engaging in hobbies can help reduce the symptoms of SAD. If someone you know is increasingly abusing drugs or alcohol as a result of SAD, dual diagnosis treatment may be required.

Dual diagnosis treatment works to treat both the underlying mental health disorder as well as the addiction. Oftentimes, patients will benefit from an intense inpatient treatment program in order to make a full recovery.

SAD Facts

  • Women struggle more with SAD than men
  • Close to six percent of those in the U.S. struggle with SAD
  • Those over the age of 20 are most affected
  • Symptoms come back yearly
  • Those who have a family history of depression are more likely to develop SAD

Unfortunately, those who struggle with a mental health disorder are 50 percent more likely to develop a substance abuse issue than those who do not struggle with a mental illness. This is why it is so important to get help for your season affective disorder right away so that you do not resort to self-medication in order to cope. Failing to get help can lead you down the very dangerous road of substance abuse and addiction.


If you or a loved one needs help with abuse and/or treatment, please call the WhiteSands Treatment at (877) 855-3470. Our addiction specialists can assess your recovery needs and help you get the addiction treatment that provides the best chance for your long-term recovery.

About the Author

is a proud alumni member of WhiteSands Treatment. After living a life of chaos, destruction and constant let downs, Mark was able to make a complete turnaround that sparked a new way of life. He is serious about his recovery along with helping others. At WhiteSands Treatment, we offer support to you in your homes or when you are out living in your daily lives.