Depression is a mood disorder that affects 350 million people worldwide. Effective treatment for depression can sometimes be difficult because antidepressant medications can work with some people and not others or may cause unpleasant side effects. Bright light therapy offers another option that appears to have significant success in treating the symptoms of depression.
Bright light therapy is a treatment for depression, seasonal affective disease and other problems with the use of a high intensity light source set in a box. The individual sits in front of the box, allowing the light to shine on them through a diffusing screen, while they engage in other activities.How Does Bright Light Therapy Work?
The mechanism of bright light therapy is not well understood at this time. It is believed that the light exposure changes the way the body produces chemical. Melatonin levels, which help to relax individuals for sleep, are reduced. Other neurotransmitter chemicals become elevated, to make individuals feel happier and more alert. These chemical changes help to stabilize the person’s mood.
Studies on Bright Light Therapy
A number of studies indicate that bright light therapy can be helpful for depression, whether the individual is taking antidepressant medication or not. In a study at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, bright light therapy produces more significant improvement of symptoms than antidepressant medication or a placebo. Patients who took both medication and light therapy had the greatest improvement, at 59 percent remission.
How Light Therapy Is Done
Treatment sessions generally last 15 minutes or longer, once or twice each day, to allow the individual to allow the most effective exposure to the light. The best light for mood elevation is that which mimics natural light immediately at sunset or just before sunset. The length and frequency of treatments are generally determined by the needs of the patient.
Cautions for Use of Light Therapy
Bright light therapy is generally considered safe for use. However, a number of special considerations should be kept in mind:
· Individuals who are extremely sensitive to light should be aware of the possibility of skin reactions.
· Some medications can also cause light sensitivity and cause lead to reactions when using bright light therapy.
· Bright light therapy can be a problem for individuals with eye sensitivity to light.
· Bright light therapy can trigger manic episodes in individuals with bipolar disorder.
You should discuss the use of a light therapy box with your doctor before trying this treatment option. When properly used, bright light therapy can provide significant relief of symptoms.