Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

SAD is a type of depressive disorder brought by seasonal changes in light . Changes in light cause a disruption of our circadian rhythm or “internal clock” which leads to the overproduction of melanin. Too much melanin in the body can produce depressive-like symptoms. The pineal gland is involved since the organ is responsible for the production of both serotonin and melanin. Melanin is a hormone that regulates sleep patterns and mood while serotonin is a neurotransmitter that affects mood stabilization.

Disclaimer: We are not mental health professionals. All our claims are backed up by credible research studies. If you relate to anything we post, we highly urge you to consult with a licensed mental health professional for a safe and accurate diagnosis.

SAD occurs when there is a disruption in this system. Normally, melatonin is released during the day as a mood stabilizer. With a drop in exposure to sunlight, circadian rhythms are thrown off resulting in the overproduction of melanin and at inopportune times. Too much melanin acts as a depressant and inhibits the production of serotonin which then leads to further fluctuation of mood. A large portion of serotonin is produced in the intensities from where melanin has less of an inhibitory effect on the neurotransmitter.

Symptoms of SAD:

  • Irritability
  • Tiredness
  • Low energy
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Heavy, “leaden” feeling in the arms or legs
  • Oversleeping
  • Appetite changes, especially a craving for foods high in carbohydrates
  • Weight gain
  • Loss of libido
  • Feelings of depression


  • Physical exam: your doctor may do a physical exam and ask in-depth questions about your health. In some cases, depression may be linked to an underlying physical health problem.
  • Lab tests: for example, your doctor may do a blood test called a Complete Blood Count (CBC) or test your thyroid to make sure it’s functioning properly.
  • Psychological evaluation: to check for signs of depression, your doctor or mental health provider asks about your symptoms, thoughts, feelings, and behaviour patterns. Your doctor also may make you fill out a questionnaire to help answer these questions.

Treatment Options

  • Light therapy: form of therapy that mimics natural outdoor light and appears to cause a change in brain chemicals linked to mood. There are little to no side effects and this method of therapy is effective for 70% of patients diagnosed with SAD.
  • Dietary changes: foods high in tryptophan increase the body’s production of serotonin. Some examples include: salmon, pineapples, cheese, and eggs.
  • Exercise changes: exercising increases endorphins which improve mood. Try not to do exercises outside in the sun.

Pharmaceuticals and Bupropion

Pharmaceuticals are supplementary and usually only used if a patient does not respond to light therapy. Antidepressants such as bupropion are used to treat SAD.

Bupropion was synthesized in 1966 by Burroughs Research Group of scientists seeking an agent that would be active in antidepressant screening models, but differ chemically from tricyclics, another type of anti-depressant.

Side effects of bupropion include, but are not limited to:

  • Dry mouth
  • Nausea
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Vision changes
  • Loss of interest in sex
  • Sore throat
  • Muscle pain


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