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Antidepressant Medicines for the Treatment of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

Antidepressant medicines effectively treat episodes of depression in people with seasonal affective disorder (SAD). They can be used alone or along with light therapy. Antidepressants used to treat people with seasonal affective disorder include:

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)

  • Citalopram (Celexa)
  • Fluoxetine (such as Prozac)
  • Sertraline (Zoloft)

Other antidepressants

  • Bupropion (Wellbutrin, Wellbutrin XL, or Zyban)
  • Desipramine (Norpramin)
  • Venlafaxine (Effexor)

SSRIs usually are the first type of medicine given to treat SAD. SSRIs often have less serious side effects that are more easily tolerated. You may start to feel better within 1 to 3 weeks of taking an SSRI. But it can take as many as 6 to 8 weeks to see more improvement. If you have questions or concerns about your medicines, or if you do not notice any improvement by 3 weeks, talk to your doctor. All antidepressant medicines are started at low doses and increased gradually. When stopped, they should be decreased gradually to avoid side effects. General side effects of antidepressant medicines can include:

  • Nausea, loss of appetite, or diarrhea.
  • Anxiety or nervousness.
  • Difficulty sleeping or drowsiness.
  • Loss of sexual desire or ability.
  • Headaches.

Bupropion can cause dry mouth. Bupropion should not be taken if you have seizures, severe problems with eating, or an eating disorder, because it can cause seizures.

Women who take an SSRI during pregnancy have a slightly higher chance of having a baby with birth defects. But not treating depression can also cause problems during pregnancy and birth. If you are pregnant, you and your doctor must weigh the risks of taking an SSRI against the risks of not treating depression.

For more information, see the topic Depression or see Drug Reference. (Drug Reference is not available in all systems.)

FDA Advisory. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued an advisory on antidepressant medicines and the risk of suicide. The FDA does not recommend that people stop using these medicines. Instead, a person taking antidepressants should be watched for warning signs of suicide. This is especially important at the beginning of treatment or when the doses are changed.

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Alfred Lewy, MD, PhD - Psychiatry
Last Revised July 7, 2010

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: July 07, 2010
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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