ClickCease SAD and Addiction - Granite Recovery Centers

SAD and Addiction

Authored by Granite Recovery Centers    Reviewed by James Gamache    Last Updated: August 27th, 2021

James Gamache Medical Reviewer
Jim is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LICSW) and Licensed Masters Level Addictions Counselor (MLADC). He has been working in the field of mental health/addiction treatment since 1995. Jim earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Human Services from Springfield College in 2000, and a Masters Degree in Social Work from Boston University in 2002. In 2002 Jim was hired by the Mental Health Center of Greater Manchester holding the position of Clinical Case Manager. From 2004-2019, Jim was employed at WestBridge Inc. During his time at WestBridge, Jim held the following positions; Clinician, Team Leader, Director, & Chief Operations Officer. In 2019 Jim transitioned employment to GateHouse Treatment Center as the Clinical Director for 10 months. In October of 2020 Jim transitioned to Granite Recovery Centers and is currently serving as the Senior VP of Clinical Services and Quality Assurance.


Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD is a disorder that affects approximately 25% of the population and is characterized by prolonged depression, present in the winter months in colder geographies, particularly in January and February. While many confuse this disorder with generalized winter blues, the true delineation between disorder and blues is measured by the patient’s ability to manage daily life activities and responsibilities.

Approximately 20% of all substance users carry some kind of mental or mood disorder concurrent with their addiction. Gloomy skies may not make you use drugs or alcohol, but for someone who has an addiction and a co-occurring mood disorder, persistent gray weather could very well be what tips the scales.

So, we recently sat down with Green Mountain Treatment Center’s own Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner, Dale McQueeny, to help us better understand Seasonal Affective Disorder, and how to spot the symptoms, identify the causes, and issue remedies. What follows is Dale’s insightful take on S.A.D….

Watch the video:

When SAD Starts

Generally, symptoms of S.A.D. begin in the fall – the late fall or early winter months – and subside in the sunnier months of the spring and summer.

Seasonal Affective Disorder Symptoms

Symptoms of S.A.D. are the same as symptoms of depression and can include:

  • feeling depressed nearly every day, most of the day
  • loss of interest in activities that you once enjoyed
  • having low energy
  • having problems with sleeping
  • experiencing changes in your appetite and weight
  • feeling sluggish or agitated
  • having difficulty concentrating
  • feeling hopeless, worthless, or guilty
  • having thoughts of death or suicide

What Causes SAD?

We don’t really know what causes S.A.D., but we do have a few ideas of things that we’ve identified as potential causes”

  • a change in your biological clock or circadian rhythm
  • a drop in your serotonin, which is a neurotransmitter in your brain
  • gender: S.A.D is diagnosed more often in women than in men
  • age: more often in younger adults than in older adults
  • family history: there are some factors that can increase your risk and they include family history
  • pre-existing mood disorder: if you have major depression or bipolar disorder, you are more likely to experience S.A.D.
  • and yes, distance from the equator: living far from the equator can increase your likelihood of S.A.D.

SAD is a Serious, Yet Treatable Condition

S.A.D. should be taken very seriously because it can worsen, just like other types of depression. If not treated, it can make you more prone to social withdrawal, school & work problems, substance abuse, other mental health problems such as anxiety or eating disorders and, again, suicidal thoughts or behaviors.

There is effective treatment for S.A.D., which can include light therapy, anti-depressants, holistic therapies like meditation, and psychotherapy. Any one or a combination of these can effectively help you with your Seasonal Affective Disorder. The key is to seek help.

If you or a loved one is suffering from the symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder, and are experiencing a substance use disorder, we can help.


Call 855.712.7784 for Immediate Help


At Granite Recovery Centers, we want to provide accurate information about health and addiction so that our readers can make informed decisions.

We have credentialed medical doctors & clinicians who specialize in addiction treatment review the information on our website before it is published. We use credible sources such as government websites and journal articles when citing statistics or other medically related topics.