Seasonal Affective Disorder & Eating Disorders

Monday, Jan 18  •  


No one knows exactly what causes eating disorders, however, researchers believe it is a combination of factors including genetics, psychological health, significant life changes, and a negative self-image. Those who are experiencing an eating disorder or are recovering from one may find the winter months more challenging. This may be due to a relationship between seasonal affective disorder and eating disorders. 

What is Seasonal Affective Disorder? 

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression. With SAD, symptoms generally arise during the fall and continue through the winter months. Some might try to brush it off as the winter blues, but in reality, it is depression and should be taken seriously. Signs and symptoms can include: 

  • Feeling sad most of the time 
  • Losing interest in previously enjoyed activities and hobbies 
  • Thoughts of suicide
  • Fatigue
  • Oversleeping
  • Changes in appetite and food cravings
  • Changes in weight
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Feeling agitated
  • Feeling hopeless or guilty 

SAD and Eating Disorders

When these two disorders intersect, it presents additional challenges. For those who are receiving treatment for an eating disorder, an essential first step is sharing the changes in their mood and eating patterns with a member of their treatment team. Those who haven’t started formal treatment for an eating disorder should consider starting. Talking with a trusted friend, family member, or giving us a call at Avalon Hills are all great places to start. 

When it comes to treating SAD and eating disorders, professionals will likely try to treat both conditions simultaneously. Antidepressants may help both conditions. Keep in mind that it takes time to find the right antidepressant, and many people have to try a few before finding one that works for them. 

Cognitive-behavioral therapy is another option for treating both conditions. In this form of therapy, individuals work with a therapist to recognize negative thought patterns and replace those with positive thoughts that better serve them. With both SAD and eating disorders, learning to recognize those thought patterns and reframe them can make an immense difference when it comes to one’s quality of life. 

The best option for treating seasonal affective disorder and eating disorders is a treatment program experienced in working with people who have a dual diagnosis. A dual diagnosis means that someone has a combination of conditions that need to be addressed, such as binge eating disorder and depression or bulimia and bipolar disorder. 

A dual diagnosis might seem overwhelming, but there is help available. If you are suffering from SAD and/or an eating disorder, talk to someone you trust about how you’re feeling.