Go From SAD to Glad Using Light Therapy for Depression


Medication, in singles and in combinations, have been known to treat severe depression cases. However, for temporary types of depression (like the seasonal affective disorder, also known as SAD), research had shown that light therapy is an effective first-line treatment, whatever is the severity of the illness. More than 60% of the treated patients respond to light therapy treatment, using a light box that approximates the natural outdoor lights, minus the unsafe UV or ultraviolet rays.

The treatment had been found to be ideal to patients who tend to get depressed in the shorter days of autumn and winter. Also, the treatment tends to work better than antidepressant drugs and placebos. Moreover, more brightness seems to have greater results. Finally, the therapy proved more effective when administrated early in the morning rather than late in the day, and is done for fifteen (15) to thirty (30) minutes a day for seven to ten days.

Healing depression with light therapy

Traditionally, treating seasonal affective disorder (SAD) has standard medical options that include psychotherapy, anti-depressant medication and light therapy. In the treatment sessions, bright lights (usually at 10,000 lux illumination) from light boxes are administered to the patient.

These light boxes consist of rows of fluorescent bulbs with a reflective backing to maximize the production of light. Usually, they include a Plexiglas cover to filter the ultraviolet rays away from the patient. In turn, patients are advised not to look directly into the light to avoid damaging the retina. (People with retinal diseases, diabetes or taking supplements like melatonin or medications like lithium can have greater risks.)

Light therapy as alternative to other medications

This new procedure had been known to treat seasonal affective disorder (SAD) for over twenty years now. Traditionally, it is included in the treatment for SAD that also includes such standard medical options as psychotherapy and antidepressant medications. In the process, bright lights that approximate natural outdoor light had been in use to treat this seasonal illness.

Antidepressants, however, are not ideal for everyone because of known side effects like insomnia, nausea, and decrease in libido, among others. In people who are intolerable, they sometimes cause some manic episodes. Taking these medications need the approval of a health professional. Psychotherapy for seasonal depression takes the form of short-term cognitive behavioral therapy. This is where patients are taught to change their negative thoughts and to get involved in enjoyable activities again.

After 20 research studies at University of North Carolina, medical experts noted that treatment using lights ÖÖ is an effective treatment not only for SAD but other types of depression as well.î In the studies, participants (from 18 to 65 years old) diagnosed with mood disorders were subjected to different levels of lights for SAD and a combination of bright lights and anti-depressants for non-SAD patients. The results for this form of treatment are asas strong and strikingî as those using medication treatments for depression. According to study leader Dr. Robert Golden, they have found that medications using ÖÖlight therapy is an effective treatment not only for SAD but for other types of depression as well.