Seasonal Depression and Substance Abuse


Do you find yourself drinking more when the seasons start to change? As the days go from sunny and warm to colder and darker, do you fight those “winter blues” by getting drunk or high more often? If so, you may suffer from seasonal depression—properly called seasonal affective disorder—and you may be using substances to self-medicate to cope with the negative emotions associated with SAD.

Seasonal Affective Disorder Statistics

SAD is a specific type of depression that is triggered by seasonal changes.  Experts believe that changes in weather, natural lighting, and temperature alters the person’s internal clock, thereby affecting brain chemistry.  It is a very common disorder, affecting up to 10 million Americans every year, with an additional 2 million people experiencing milder symptoms.

  • SAD affects more women than men.
  • Symptoms typically present when the person is approximately 20 years old.
  • 6% of patients diagnosed with SAD require hospitalization.
  • 55% have a close family member who has been diagnosed with depression.
  • 34% have a family history of alcohol abuse.

Seasonal Affective Disorder Symptoms

The symptoms of SAD mimic those of other depressive conditions:

  • Major depression
  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Lack of energy
  • Loss of motivation
  • Severe anxiety
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Social withdrawal/Isolation
  • Significant changes in appetite – uncharacteristically starving one’s self or overeating in response to negative feelings
  • Unhealthy weight gain or loss
  • Excessive tiredness or sleeping
  • “Heaviness ” in the limbs

Supported by New Research

“This is the first study that systematically demonstrates that worldwide and in America, in colder areas and areas with less sun, you have more drinking and more alcoholic cirrhosis.”

~ Dr. Ramon Bataller, M.D., Ph.D., Chief of Hepatology at University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, Professor of Medicine, and Associate Director of the Pittsburgh Liver Research Center

According to brand-new research just published in November 2018, people who live in colder climates that receive less sunlight drink more alcohol and more frequently suffer from alcohol-related liver diseases than people who live in sunnier, warmer locations.

And these findings are across the board, because in areas with lower average temperatures and fewer someone hours, there were increases in:

  • Percent of the population that drinks
  • Alcohol intake per capita
  • Incidence of binge drinking

What Does This Mean to YOU?

If you are already genetically-susceptible to depression, you may find yourself turning to alcohol and drugs more often during the winter. And if you also have a biological vulnerability, such a pattern of self-medicating can quickly worsen to abuse and addiction.

If you find that you are drinking or using more than you mean to, Chapman House Treatment Centers can help. And as one of the top dual diagnosis treatment programs in Southern California, Chapman House will treat both your SAD and your addiction simultaneously. This helps you regain both your sobriety and your good mental health.

For more information and to get the help you need, contact Chapman House TODAY.


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