Woman with Seasonal Affective Disorder

Seasonal Affective Disorder: Can Ketamine Infusion Therapy Help?

As the holiday season gets into full swing, many are excited and joyous during this time of year. However, for some, the winter season brings on a condition known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a type of depression related to changes in seasons — SAD begins and ends at around the same time every year. Most people with SAD’s symptoms start in the fall and continue into the winter months, sapping energy and making them feel moody. These symptoms often dissipate during the spring and summer months. Less often, SAD causes depression in the spring or early summer and resolves during the fall or winter months.

What are the symptoms of Seasonal affective disorder (SAD)?

Symptoms may start out mild and become more severe as the season progresses. According to the Mayo Clinic, signs and symptoms of SAD may include:

  • Feeling listless, sad, or down most of the day, nearly every day
  • Losing interest in activities you once enjoyed
  • Having low energy and feeling sluggish
  • Having problems with sleeping too much
  • Experiencing carbohydrate cravings, overeating, and weight gain
  • Having difficulty concentrating
  • Feeling hopeless, worthless or guilty
  • Having thoughts of not wanting to live

How is Seasonal Affective Disorder Treated?

Treatments are available that can help many people with SAD. They fall into four main categories that may be used alone or in combination:

  • Light therapy
  • Psychotherapy
  • Antidepressant medications
  • Vitamin D
Light Therapy

Since the 1980s, light therapy has been a mainstay for treating SAD. It aims to expose people with SAD to bright light daily to compensate for the diminished natural sunshine in the darker months. For this treatment, the person sits in front of a bright light box (10,000 lux) every day for about 30 to 45 minutes, usually first thing in the morning, from fall to spring. The light boxes, which are about 20 times brighter than ordinary indoor light, filter out the potentially damaging UV light, making this a safe treatment for most. 


Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a therapy aimed at helping people learn how to cope with difficult situations; CBT has also been adapted for people with SAD (CBT-SAD). It focuses on replacing negative thoughts related to the winter season (e.g., about the darkness of winter) with more positive thoughts. CBT-SAD also uses behavioral activation, which helps individuals identify and schedule pleasant, engaging indoor or outdoor activities to combat the loss of interest they typically experience in the winter.


Because SAD, like other types of depression, is associated with disturbances in serotonin activity, antidepressant medications called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are also used to treat SAD when symptoms occur. These agents can significantly enhance patients’ moods. Commonly used SSRIs include fluoxetine, citalopram, sertraline, paroxetine, and escitalopram.

Ketamine Infusion Therapy

Ketamine therapy leads to an increased release of glutamate, which is known to be involved in neuronal plasticity and synaptic growth and repair. These effects through complex pathways lead to the release of Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a substance responsible for maintaining healthy neurons and their connections, known as synapses.

Increased BDNF has been shown to bring about the repair and regrowth of damaged synapses and their neuronal connections caused by chronic stress in animal models. Likewise, in humans, ketamine is thought to lead to the creation of new neuronal circuits and repair of the healthy neuronal connections that existed in the brain before the patient suffered from depression, PTSD, OCD, or chronic anxiety.

Ketamine is a treatment that is being discussed and utilized more often for treatment-resistant major depressive disorder (MDD) and may be helpful for those experiencing Seasonal Affective Disorder.

Ketamine Infusion Therapy may work exceptionally well among patients resistant to other treatment forms like antidepressants and cognitive therapy. According to the National Center of Biotechnical Information, ketamine is gaining popularity in treating major depressive disorder (MDD) that has previously been treatment-resistant. Although not approved by the FDA, ketamine is also gaining popularity for treatment-resistant MDD because of its rapid onset of efficacy. 

To learn more about Ketamine Infusion Therapy, click here.