Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depressive disorder associated with seasonal changes. This means SAD starts and ends at almost the same time each year. 

An individual with SAD will usually have symptoms that start in the fall and continue during the winter, making them feel low and moody. In some cases, SAD may cause depression in early summer or spring instead of the winter.

If you face this, do not take it just as “winter blues” or something you have to deal with yourself. Many treatment options are available to manage the condition. Common options include light therapy, psychotherapy, or medications.

Bupropion is one of the most effective medications for SAD that work by improving the levels of chemicals responsible for boosting your mood.

Let’s understand how this medication can help you if you have SAD.

What Is Seasonal Affective Disorder?

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depressive disorder having a seasonal pattern. This disorder causes depression provoked by seasonal changes, especially in winter.

While anyone can get SAD, women and adolescents have a higher tendency for this condition. 

Experts believe that shorter daylight or less sunlight causes biochemical changes in the brain, resulting in SAD.

With the seasonal change, individuals experience changes in the circadian rhythm or internal biological clock. Thus, people living far from the equator, where the daylight hours are shorter in the winter, are more prone to SAD.

Causes And Symptoms

Causes

Some factors that may contribute to the condition are:

  • Circadian rhythm
  • A drop in serotonin levels
  • Alteration in melatonin levels
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Risk factors

  • Being a woman
  • Having a family history of SAD
  • Having bipolar disorder or depression
  • Living far away from the equator

Symptoms

SAD may affect everyone differently, but most symptoms appear between October to April. However, you can get symptoms before or after these months.

There are two primary types of SAD: Winter and summer SAD

Common symptoms of wintertime SAD include:

  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Increased irritability
  • Lethargy
  • Unhappiness
  • Lack of interest in social activities
  • Weight gain
  • Daytime fatigue
  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Reduced sexual interest
  • Oversleeping
  • Appetite changes

Common symptoms of summertime SAD include:

  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Lack of appetite
  • Agitation
  • Weight loss
  • Increased restlessness

In some cases, it may also cause suicidal thoughts.

If left unattended, the symptoms may become more intense. Some signs that may indicate that your condition is becoming worse are:

  • School or work problems
  • Social withdrawal
  • Anxiety or eating disorders
  • Substance abuse
  • Suicidal behavior or thoughts

Fortunately, many treatment options are available to help manage the condition and prevent the risk of complications.

Management

Here are some treatment options that can help:

Therapy and Counselling

They can help you find out negative things that may affect you and ways to cope with them. You will also be in a better position to manage stress.

Light Therapy

It involves the use of a lightbox for half an hour daily to replicate natural light. Alternatively, you can also use the dawn stimulator. It is a timer-activated device that mimics sunrise, stimulating the body’s clock.

However, these devices should only be used under the doctor’s guidance. Tanning beds or other light-emitting sources are not safe for use.

Lifestyle Changes

Some healthy changes that can help minimize SAD symptoms are:

  • Being active
  • Getting enough sleep
  • Eating a healthy diet with fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins
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Medications

If the mentioned therapies cannot help you manage the symptoms, your doctor may prescribe medications such as antidepressants.

Bupropion (Wellbutrin) is one such commonly used medication for treating SAD.

Here is how it may help you.

How Does Bupropion Help Treat It?

It triggers the activity of natural chemicals in your brain, such as norepinephrine and dopamine, responsible for improving your mood. The nerves take up these chemicals to send messages among them.

Bupropion works by preventing the reuptake of serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine, improving their level in your brain and thus boosting your mood.

Unlike other antidepressants that affect serotonin, Bupropion has a major impact on dopamine.

So, Bupropion mainly works by improving levels of chemicals in your brain that are responsible for uplifting your mood.

Your doctor will usually prescribe this medicine at the onset of the symptoms (between September to November) and stop gradually once the symptoms subside, usually in the first week of spring.

Various studies have proven the effectiveness of Wellbutrin for SAD. It was seen that Bupropion improved the depressive state in about 84% of the individuals.

Use And Dosage

Take this medicine as advised by your doctor. In general, the following instructions should be followed:

  • Bupropion is a medication to be taken by mouth. Read the medication guide before taking it.
  • Take the tablet orally as directed by your doctor. It is usually taken once a day, preferably in the morning.
  • Take the exact dose as prescribed by your doctor. Do not use it too often or take a higher dose than advised.
  • Swallow the whole tablet.
  • Do not chew or crush the tablet. Doing so will release all the medicine at once, increasing the probability of side effects.
  • Do not split the tablet unless told by your doctor or pharmacist.
  • Avoid taking it late in the day as it may cause trouble sleeping.
  • In case you have an upset stomach, take the medication after or with a snack or meal.
  • Take medicine regularly, preferably at the same time every day. Do not skip the medication without consulting your doctor.
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If you forget a dose:

  • Take it as soon as you remember it the same day and carry on as usual from the next day
  • If you completely forget the dose for the whole day, skip it and carry on, as usual, the next day
  • Do not take double the dose to compensate for the missed dose

Other Precautions Or Care

The use of this medicine is not recommended for breastfeeding and pregnant mothers unless advised by your doctor.

You should also avoid the medicine if you have the following conditions:

  • Liver diseases
  • Kidney disorders
  • Bipolar disorders
  • Angle-closure glaucoma
  • Seizures
  • Eating disorders such as bulimia or anorexia

Side effects that need immediate care

Seek medical care in the presence of the following symptoms:

  • Suicidal attempt
  • Thoughts of dying or suicide
  • Worse or new anxiety
  • Worse or new depression
  • Panic attacks
  • Feeling restless or agitated
  • Worse or new irritability
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Acting on dangerous impulses
  • Being violent, aggressive, or angry
  • Increase in activity or talking

Final Thoughts

Seasonal lows are common, but they may indicate seasonal affective disorder (SAD) in some cases. If you are suspecting SAD, it is best to consult your doctor to understand if Bupropion is the right option for you or not.

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