ClickCease Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) - Granite Recovery Centers

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

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There’s a chill in the air, and the sun goes down early. Instead of going out, you would rather remain inside because you don’t know how to quite explain it, but you just feel depressed, down, and listless. Sometimes, this feeling stops you from doing the things you need to do every day. If this is happening to you or a loved one during the winter months, it may be seasonal affective disorder, or SAD.


The Definition of SAD

Seasonal affective disorder is a type of depression that presents itself when the seasons change. Most of the time, it starts to occur in late fall or at the beginning of winter. The symptoms associated with SAD include hopelessness, fatigue, and depression. SAD is a condition that needs to be treated when it occurs.

SAD is a subtype of bipolar disorder and major depressive disorder. People diagnosed with SAD experience the symptoms of either bipolar or major depressive disorders but only during a particular time of the year. In most cases, people diagnosed with SAD will experience the symptoms of major depressive disorder.

The major depressive symptoms that a person with SAD can experience include the following:

  • Loss of interest in activities they used to enjoy
  • Fatigue
  • Depressive symptoms
  • Low self-esteem
  • Increased sleep
  • Weight gain

A smaller number of people have bipolar symptoms when they are experiencing symptoms of SAD. When their SAD symptoms are active in the fall and winter months, they begin to feel depressed. During the spring and summer months, they tend to have manic episodes.


SAD and Substance Use Disorder

One reason to take the treatment of SAD very seriously is because seasonal affective disorder leads many people to self-medicate their symptoms with alcohol or drugs. For example, some people seek to lessen their fatigue with stimulants, and others may escape from depressive symptoms by taking opioids or drinking. This may be what your loved one is doing.

The unfortunate fact is that when people begin to self-medicate due to their SAD symptoms, they are not seeking help from a mental health professional. Drug or alcohol use begins as a way to make themselves feel better, but it turns into a substance use disorder. In time, they become addicted, and they cannot stop the drug or alcohol use when the weather becomes agreeable again.

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, 20% of the population with SAD and other mental health disorders also struggles with a substance use disorder. The National Institute on Drug Abuse thinks that this number is even higher. The institute states that half of the people experiencing a mental health disorder will also develop a substance use disorder at some point in their lives.


The Influence of COVID-19

COVID-19 is making things even worse for people affected by SAD and substance use disorders. The New York Times’ personal health columnist called this period of time the double whammy of seasonal affective disorder in the season of COVID. As the days grew shorter, she noticed that she was feeling less enthusiasm for her regular activities both indoors and outdoors.

According to the New York Times columnist, the pandemic is wreaking havoc on everything from education to the economy, vocational pursuits, and social lives, and this is causing even people without the propensity to become depressed to begin suffering symptoms of depression. As the days grew shorter during the winter months, SAD symptoms were even worse for everyone suffering from SAD because of the COVID crisis. The Times columnist expects COVID to intensify depressive symptoms for those affected by SAD.

One doctor says that 5% of the U.S. population has been diagnosed with SAD, but three times this number could have a mild version of the disorder. It wasn’t until the 1980s that medical professionals identified that seasonal affective disorder was a real condition.

People may or may not be experiencing the full extent of SAD, but the number of people with the condition is expected to increase. This means that there could also be an increased number of people in the beginning stages of a substance use disorder. The country has to contend with COVID, SAD, and substance use disorder all at the same time.


How Do You Deal With Symptoms?

The best thing that your loved one can do to combat his mental health disorder is get into treatment. At Granite Recovery Centers, we can treat co-occurring disorders. Unfortunately, only 9% of people in need of treatment for a mental health disorder and a substance use disorder receive that treatment.


What Is a Co-Occurring Disorder?

A co-occurring disorder is when a mental health disorder exists at the same time as a substance use disorder. The mental health disorder may or may not be as severe as the substance use disorder, but the conditions will be treated at the same time at a professional facility. The fact that these disorders are co-occurring means it can be difficult to treat both, but at Granite Recovery Centers, our medical staff is trained to do exactly that.



“Comorbidity” is another way of saying “co-occurring.” The medical community knows that mental health disorders and substance use disorders often occur at the same time. This can be devastating for those diagnosed with both disorders because when the disorders interact, it can make the course that each condition takes much worse.

A significant number of people have comorbid disorders. It’s estimated that a total of 7.7 million American adults have co-occurring disorders. According to research, 20.3 million adults have been diagnosed with a substance use disorder, and 37.9% of this population also has a mental health disorder. Of the 42.1 million adults diagnosed with a mental health disorder first, 18.2% of that population developed a substance use disorder.


What Types of Therapy Treat These Disorders?

We offer integrated treatment, known as Dual Diagnosis treatment, in which clinical psychiatric therapies are used to treat both the addiction and the mental disorder concurrently. Therapists also use psychotherapy to treat several disorders, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, bipolar disorder, anxiety, and depression. Research has shown that when a mental health disorder isn’t being treated, the patient has a harder time recovering from his or her substance use disorder.

Our therapists understand how mental health disorders and substance use disorders interact with each other, and we are aware of how your loved one may be thinking about their issues. In therapy, your loved one learns how to recognize when they are having cravings for their drug of choice, so we help them develop better strategies that lead them to cope with difficult feelings. Instead of negativity, we bring positivity to your loved one’s existence.


Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive behavioral therapy is a form of psychotherapy that treats substance use disorders. It also treats depression. The research shows that cognitive behavioral therapy improves functioning for those diagnosed with these disorders. Studies have demonstrated that this therapy is even more effective than medication in some cases.

Although the patient’s past is important, a cognitive behavioral therapist will focus on your loved one’s future. The nature of the therapy makes it so that your loved one will be their own therapist when they are no longer attending one-on-one sessions with a therapist in drug or alcohol rehab. For this purpose, your loved one’s therapist will give them homework that will help them learn how to cope better with the issues and how to change problematic thinking, emotions, and behavior.


Group Therapy

Along with one-on-one therapy, your loved one will also engage in group therapy with other clients at the treatment center. One or more therapists will lead group therapy sessions with between 5 and 15 people. These sessions may last for an hour.

Your loved one may be reluctant to attend a group therapy meeting, but group therapy will give them advantages that individual therapy cannot. For example, with other people in the session, your loved one will have a network of support. These people will be a sounding board when your loved one wants to discuss a problem. Peers can also help them work through a problem that they are having trouble confronting. The group is very important for people in treatment for substance use disorders because the group holds everyone accountable for their actions.

Group therapy is a positive thing for people in recovery because they do not necessarily discuss their substance use issues with others in their lives. In group therapy, everyone has a substance use disorder, so your loved one will feel comfortable talking about their issues. As they listen to the others, they will know that other people are experiencing the same things. This will make it so that your loved one doesn’t feel alone in their addiction.

Being in a group of different people also gives your loved one the chance to see things from different perspectives. The diverse group of people will come up with different solutions to problems, and they will expand your loved one’s arsenal of solutions that they can use when they are in a situation alone.


Granite Recovery Centers

The first step that your loved one will need to take is medical detox. When someone decides to stop taking their drug of choice, the body makes it extremely difficult because of the physical addiction. The person may begin to experience debilitating withdrawal symptoms that will try to force them to use the drug again. At Granite Recovery Centers, we offer sub-acute medical detox on the campus, where your loved one will be supervised by our medical staff. Granite Recovery Centers provides medical detoxification for people who do not need immediate medical intervention, are not a danger to themselves, and are capable of self-evacuation in the event of an emergency.

If your loved one is addicted to alcohol, they will begin to experience withdrawal symptoms 6 to 24 hours after their last drink. The symptoms can include nausea and vomiting, anxiety, sweating, hallucinations, and delirium tremens. Our medical staff will administer medications that will help your loved one tolerate the symptoms so that their body can release the remaining toxins left over by the alcohol. Your loved one may need to remain in the detox program for about one week.

After the detox process is complete, your loved one will be ready to move on to inpatient drug rehab. In inpatient treatment, your loved one will have around-the-clock care where they participate in therapy sessions, skill-building sessions, and exercise.

There is help for your loved one’s substance use disorder and seasonal affective disorder. At Granite Recovery Centers, we focus on treating the whole person, and this includes a mental health disorder as well as the substance use disorder. We will bring your loved one to a level of physical health where they can begin the process of healing from substance addiction. If you or your loved one is ready to embark on a new path toward sobriety, call us at Granite Recovery Centers today.