Combat Symptoms of SAD with Light Therapy
The seasonal disorder is a type of mood disorder that relates to change in seasons - it begins and ends at the same time every year. People who suffer from the seasonal disorder (SAD) start to show symptoms in the fall and continue into the winter months, sapping their energy and making them feel moody. The symptoms of SAD include depression, fatigue, hopelessness and social withdrawal in the spring or early summers.
The treatment for the seasonal disorder may include light therapy (phototherapy), medication and psychotherapy (CBT) sessions.
What is Light Therapy?
Light therapy is a method to treat seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and certain other conditions. Here artificial light exposure is used as treatment. During light therapy, the patient sit or work near a device called a light therapy box. The box gives off bright light that imitates natural outdoor light.
How the Light Therapy Works?
Light therapy is reckoned to affect brain chemicals associated to mood and sleep, easing SAD symptoms. Bright light works by stimulating cells in the retina that connect to the hypothalamus. Hypothalamus is part of the brain that helps control circadian rhythms. By activating the hypothalamus at a certain time every day a normal circadian rhythm can be restored and thus SAD symptoms can be reduced and eventually eliminated.
Using a light therapy box is also helpful in treating health issues like depression, sleep disorders, etc.
Understanding the Light Box Mechanism
Generally, the light box should:
· Renders an exposure to 10,000 lux of light. This exposure is about 100 times brighter than usual indoor lighting; a bright sunny day is 50,000 lux or more.
· Emit as little UV light as possible
Recommendations for getting started with light box treatment:
· Within the first hour of getting up in the morning
· For period of 20- 30 minutes
· Maintain a distance of approximately 16- 24 inches from the face
· Keep eyes open but make sure not to look directly at the light source
Precautions Needed While Buying Light Box
· Get evaluated by expert in light box therapy profession to ascertain the need for the treatment and buying the light box. S/he could determine whether you really have seasonal affective disorder.
· Light boxes are designed to be safe and effective treatment method for SAD. But they aren't approved or regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for SAD treatment. Understand your options with an eye to details. Although, a doctor may recommend a specific light box, it can be bought without prescription too.
· Before buying a light box, inquire regarding the wavelengths of light it delivers (experts recommend fluorescent light without ultraviolet wavelengths).
· To check the suitability of the light box as per specific requirements, ensure whether it is used in any hospitals, clinics, or reputable research facilities.
Limitations of Light Box Therapy
Light therapy has been found equally effective as antidepressant medications for treating seasonal affective disorder. Therapy’s result differs according to the patient’s state. It might work for only a few and may be inappropriate for other.
Some people need more lighting, or brighter light. But, many can’t tolerate bright light. For instance, in people with bipolar disorder light box therapy can trigger hypomania or mania.
There is slight risk of eye damage from bright light, especially in people with diabetes (in such cases bright light exposure can damage the retina) or pre-existing eye disease.
Coupling Light Therapy with Other Treatments
Light therapy is also known as bright light therapy or phototherapy. In extreme cases, to make light therapy more effective, it has to be combined with another SAD treatment, such as an antidepressant or psychological counselling (psychotherapy).