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Does Seasonal Affective Disorder Contribute (SAD) to Alcoholism?

Seasonal affective disorder can be just as debilitating as every day depression. But does SAD contribute to alcoholism? There have been links between mental health and alcoholism, and it is said that people often self medicate with alcohol as a way to feel better when depression is so severe that it is unmanageable. What about SAD? Understanding what seasonal affective disorder is, and the link between SAD and alcoholism is important to avoiding it, or seeking help if you need it.

What is SAD?

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is depression that can be linked to seasonal changes. It usually begins and ends around the same time every year, oftentimes beginning in the fall and lasting through winter. SAD affects energy levels and causes changes in moods. Diagnosis for SAD involves having these symptoms around the same time for two years, and the symptoms being alleviated once the season ends. For example, fall and winter SAD would go into remission during the spring and summer months then return the following winter and fall. This is when diagnosing the disorder would be possible. Treatments for SAD can include light therapy, psychotherapy, and medications. It is vital to have proper professional care if you begin to notice these changes during certain seasons, and not just brush it off.

Symptoms of SAD

As stated, SAD usually occurs in the fall and winter months, then seemingly goes away come spring and summer. The symptoms can begin, and progressively go from mild and manageable to more severe and unmanageable. Some of the symptoms of SAD can include:

  • Losing interest in enjoyable activities
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness
  • Overeating
  • Weight gain
  • Loss of appetite
  • Loss of energy
  • Excessive sleeping
  • Feelings of sadness most of the day, almost every day

Some of these symptoms are specific to each form of SAD. Fall-winter and Spring-summer SAD both have associated symptoms. Spring-Summer SAD usually features insomnia, loss of appetite, weight loss, and anxiety. Fall-winter SAD is almost the opposite, with oversleeping, overeating, weight gain, and low energy.


Seasonal changes and changes in sunlight are said to be a cause of seasonal affective disorder. It causes changes in the brain chemistry such as less production of melatonin, which is a neurotransmitter that affects feelings of happiness. SAD also affects melatonin production, which is a hormone that regulates sleep. These drastic changes in sleep and mood caused by SAD can contribute to alcoholism. Turning to alcohol as a way of coping with the changes can lead to the need for the substance in order to feel “normal” again.

There is also a link between SAD and those who suffer from bipolar disorder. People who suffer from bipolar disorder run a greater risk of developing SAD.

Does SAD Contribute to Alcoholism?

It is said that those with SAD are about twice as likely to develop substance abuse orders such as alcoholism. Having the severe changes in mood and capabilities of maintaining the lifestyle once lived, can lead to SAD contributing to alcoholism. While there is no clear answer on whether alcoholism can lead to seasonal affective disorder, there is the possibility that self medicating with alcohol can be caused by SAD.

Being affected by seasonal changes, and feeling normal at the opposite time of year can throw anybody off, making them feel out of whack and can make it almost impossible to live a normal life during the times when SAD flares up. If there is the possibility that you may be suffering from SAD, don’t just suffer through it. There is help to alleviate the symptoms and help you to regain a sense of normalcy and get your life back on track. Turning to alcohol as a means of feeling normal again can be detrimental and lead to far worse consequences.

How Does Alcoholism Affect SAD?

When someone is suffering from SAD and does end up turning to alcohol to cope with the changes SAD produces, it can lead to actually exacerbating the symptoms. While it may seem like these symptoms are, for a short while, being alleviated, in the long run it will cause the depression associated with SAD to be worsened. Alcohol is a depressant. This means it depresses the central nervous system. Drinking to “feel better” can actually lead to worsened feelings of depression. When this happens, it can lead to more and more alcohol being consumed in the hopes that it will help, and it can lead to addiction.

Getting Help for SAD and Substance Abuse in Louisville, KY

If you or a loved one are suffering with substance abuse or seasonal affective disorder, there is help for you. There is support available to help you live a happier, healthier life. Louisville Addiction Center boasts a team of professionals on hand to help you through this recovery journey. Contact us today and begin your journey to a new life.