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Should You Use Medication for Seasonal Affective Disorder?

Though some people decide to use light therapy or a specific diet to combat their seasonal affective disorder (SAD), others may benefit from taking medication. Here is some information that can help you decide whether or not medication is right for you.

Is Medication Right for You?

Some basic questions to start out with focus on your personal attitude toward medication and your lifestyle:

– Are you open to taking medication?
– Do you usually remember to take it?
– Are you willing to put up with some moderate side effects?
– Do you have the perseverance to keep trying medication and dosages until you find the one that works for you?

Is so, there are many ways medication can help you fight against SAD. Most likely, you will receive a prescription for an antidepressant like Wellbutrin, Prozac, or Zoloft. These antidepressants work in your brain to help balance out chemicals that affect your emotions. There are three main “chemical messengers” (they’re called neurotransmitters) that antidepressants target:

– Dopamine – affects attention and arousal, motivation and addiction
– Norepinephrine – affects lethargy, energy levels, and mental alertness
– Serotonin – affects memory, sleep, mood, and anxiety


Medication has several advantages. First, it is a simple method of treatment. Just take one or two pills a day and you’re all set. Second, many medications are relatively inexpensive, especially if you have insurance and/or opt to use general drugs. Finally, medications for SAD typically begin working in one to four weeks.

You might also choose to try medication if light therapy isn’t working for you or if you feel you don’t have adequate time to devote to therapy. Or, your doctor might recommend medication if you are also experiencing suicidal thoughts or have bipolar disorder.


Though medication is effective for many people struggling with SAD, there are some potential risks to consider. Of course, there are likely to be side effects (as with any medication we take). Side effects for antidepressants tend to be things like headaches, weight gain, nausea, dry mouth, and sexual dysfunction.

If you are pregnant or nursing, you really need to talk to your doctor and do your research before taking an antidepressant. Some doctors think they are perfectly safe for you and your baby, while others argue that they are not.

Be careful if you decide to take antidepressants while taking other medication. Since drugs may act differently if they are mixed with something else, you will want to check with your doctor to avoid dangerous drug combinations.

Finally, when it comes time to stop taking the medication, there may be some side effects to that, as well. Some people experience anxiety, and others experience flu-like symptoms.

Final Thoughts

If you decide to move forward with medication or simply want to explore your options further, talk to your family doctor. He or she understands your medical history and the details of your SAD and can help you come to the right conclusion for you.


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