Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is well-treated using naturopathic medicine.

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that occurs at the same time every year, most commonly in the fall and winter months.

The specific cause of seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is unknown, but genetic factors, age, the body’s natural chemical makeup and your individual circadian rhythm (the natural rhythm affecting levels of the chemicals melatonin and serotonin, and which is disrupted by the reduced level of sunlight in fall and winter) are thought to play a role.

Untreated, seasonal affective disorder (SAD) can lead to social withdrawal, school or work problems and substance abuse.

Seek professional healthcare if you feel “down”  for days at a time and are not able to become motivated to participate in activities you normally enjoy. This is particularly important if you notice that your sleep patterns and appetite have changed, you have a sense of hopelessness or find yourself turning to alcohol for comfort or relaxation.

Seek emergency medical care if you begin to think of suicide.

Symptoms of Seasonal Affective disorder (SAD)

Possible symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) include:

  • Hopelessness
  • Social withdrawal
  • Loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities
  • Anxiety, agitation and irritability
  • Difficulty concentrating and processing information
  • Low energy
  • Oversleeping or insomnia
  • Changes in appetite (e.g., loss of appetite, craving for carbohydrate-rich foods)
  • Weight loss or gain

Treatment of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) at Toronto Centre for Naturopathic Medicine

At Toronto Centre for Naturopathic Medicine, the goals of seasonal affective disorder (SAD) treatment are to alleviate mental, emotional and physical symptoms; manage side effects of conventional medications and identify; and address triggers of seasonal affective disorder (SAD) to prevent annual recurrence.

Conventional treatment for seasonal affective disorder (SAD) may include light therapy, psychotherapy and antidepressants. These treatments may have short- or long-term side effects.

For this reason, you may choose to try natural treatment to possibly avoid use of conventional medications, or together with conventional medications in order to decrease dosages of conventional medications required to manage your seasonal affective disorder (SAD) symptoms.

Naturopathic treatment of any chronic health concern must be recognized as a process that involves:

  • Identifying specific treatment goals
  • Development by your naturopathic doctor, of a thorough understanding of all factors affecting your health, including physical, psychological, emotional and lifestyle factors
  • Development of a comprehensive treatment plan
  • Implementation and maintenance of that plan through periodic monitoring and adjustment

At Toronto Centre for Naturopathic Medicine, a typical approach to treating seasonal affective disorder (SAD) may be to:

  • Identify and address underlying factors in your lifestyle (e.g., job dissatisfaction) or general health (e.g., existing mental health disorders) that may be triggering seasonal affective disorder (SAD) episodes
  • Reduce feelings of depression using botanical (herbal) medicines or nutritional supplements
  • Reduce episode recurrence by creating a healthy lifestyle that minimizes biochemical predisposition to seasonal affective disorder (SAD) using relaxation (meditation) training or exercise prescription
  • Identify and address other health conditions related to decreased exposure to sunlight (e.g., vitamin D deficiency)

Where appropriate, a number of therapeutic options are available, to be used alone, or more often in a complementary fashion, including:

Treatments provided by naturopathic doctors are covered by most extended healthcare plans.


Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) [Internet]. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research; [cited 2010 Jan 17]. Available from: