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Alcohol Addiction and Seasonal Affective Disorder

By: Carol Morriscey

Seasonal Affective Disorder commonly accompanies alcohol addiction, making its treatment a critical component of a successful recovery from addiction. What is Seasonal Affective Disorder

As the cold days and dark evenings of winter set in, so do the symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) for many people. These symptoms may include lack of energy, lack of interest in activities, feelings of worthlessness or hopelessness, and other common symptoms of depression. The difference between SAD and depression, is that SAD fluctuates with the seasons, typically appearing in late fall or early winter, and dissipating as the weather warms in the spring.

Comorbidity of Depression, Seasonal Affective Disorder, and Alcohol Addiction

Seasonal Affective Disorder and alcohol addiction are closely intertwined, each provoking the other. The symptoms which comprise SAD, such as hopelessness or stress, may lead to alcohol use and addiction as a result of self-medication. Individuals who are in recovery from alcohol abuse or addiction are at particular risk of relapse if they suffer from SAD.

Furthermore, addiction can contribute to the symptoms of SAD. The ups and downs of addiction often exacerbate the depressive symptoms of SAD, such as feelings of hopelessness or the possibility of suicidal ideation. This occurs because alcohol alters brain chemistry leading to chemical imbalances related to depressive symptoms. Thus, alcohol addiction can both cause and be caused by depressive symptoms associated with SAD.

Seasonal Affective Disorder and Alcohol Addiction Treatment at Alcohol Rehabs

As a result of the common comorbidity and the provoking relationship of SAD and addiction, effective addiction treatment must treat both the addiction itself and SAD, which may be contributing to the addiction. In order to achieve a holistic recovery in alcohol rehab, SAD can be managed in a variety of ways, alongside traditional addiction treatments.

Most commonly, SAD is treated through light therapy, in which a patient is exposed to artificial light that mimics natural sunlight. This light exposure is able to reduce the common symptoms of SAD, apparently due to a restoration of natural circadian rhythms and hormone levels which shift during the darker months of the year.

At Searidge Drug Rehab and Addiction Treatment Centre our goal is to help our patients achieve a sustained and holistic recovery. As such, we have incorporated light therapy lamps into our facilities to treat co-occurring disorders such as depression and SAD.

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National Association of Addiction Treatment Providers International Security for Traumatic Stress Studies The Canadian Positive Psychology Association The Association for Addiction Professionals