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Does Light Therapy Help Depression?

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Does Light Therapy Help Depression?

woman in depression

Depression is a depressive disorder which is a combination of sad feelings and lost interest in different activities (Source) which deteriorates the physical and mental well being of an individual.

Depression can adversely affect the thinking, acting, and doing of individuals. It can lead to inefficiency of an individual, causes a lack of confidence, causes a feeling of being tired and alone, and can even disturb the sleep cycles. Depression overall negatively impacts the personality of an individual. ( Source )

What are the symptoms associated with depression?

Some symptoms which people suffering depression might show are as follows:

  • Lack of appetite or an increase an appetite
  • Losing or gaining weight
  • Difficulty interacting or conversing with people
  • Difficulty in making public appearances
  • Lack of concern
  • Lack of focus and concentration
  • Messed up sleep cycle
  • Lack of physical activity and lethargy
  • Feeling of being unworthy

How does light therapy help with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)?

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a depression (Source) that comes with fall or winter, the cold and cloudy weather with a lack of bright light causes people to be depressed.

Light box therapy of photo therapy is known to be effective for seasonal affective disorder (SAD) because the light emitted through the light box acts as an instant anti-depressant.

Instead of taking anti-depressant pills, people opt for light box therapy because it has fewer side effects and is very effective. Anti-depressant pills can have so many side effects such as constipation, insomnia, dry mouth, blurred vision, increased appetite and gaining of weight, on the contrary, the light box therapy is safer and cost effective.

Sitting a few feet away from the light box while working or doing any other chore will have the same effects as the anti-depressant pills. So, you can give around 20-30 minutes to light box therapy each day to achieve better results than the anti-depressant pills.

The doctor may recommend a specific a timing, a specific duration and a specific intensity of light during a light box therapy session for the individuals suffering from depression. As the light emitted from the light box acts as an anti-depressant, it will make the individual feel better during the winter time. It also has to do with the longevity of the days, during the long summer days people feel energetic and active while they feel highly low in the short winter time. Also, the light therapy can help people take a lower dose of anti-depressant pills if they are already taking some.

What kind of light box should be used for treating SAD?

There are two different types of light boxes, one kind of light box is used for treating skin conditions while the other is used to treat depression or any sleep disorders. However, it is quite possible for people to confuse between the two.

The major difference is that the light box designed for treating skin related diseases emits (UV) lights while the light box that is used for treating depression or sleep disorders filters out the (UV) light so the eyes of the user can be protected from damage. Since, the light emitted from the light box for depression reaches the eyes of the people, so it is essential that it filters out the (UV) light.

How does light box therapy treat people with nonseasonal depression?

As we talked earlier that people have depression in the short winter days due to a lack of daylight, they feel low and unenergetic, which can be treated gradually with the help of light box therapy. Similarly, there are people who are suffering nonseasonal depression and there are many types of it. So many different reasons cause this nonseasonal depression.

Some common subtypes of nonseasonal depression include postnatal depression, bi-polar depression, premenstrual depression and so many others. Even for these subtypes of depression, the light box therapy acts as an anti-depressant and is cost-effective.

Patients just have to make a onetime investment instead of spending heft amounts of many on a variety of different pills.

In order to treat nonseasonal tradition, the same procedure is followed. People spend a specific amount of time near the light box where they need to have their eyes open so that the light can reach their eyes.

The timing of the session is usually scheduled in the morning when people wake up, however, it can vary from person to person depending upon the need and the doctor’s advice. Similarly, the duration of the sessions along with the intensity is advised by the doctor depending upon the type of the depression.

The sessions may start with a shorter duration and can lead to a longer duration, it can happen in the opposite way too, the doctor may suggest a longer duration and then the sessions can lead to shorter duration depending upon the need.

Are abnormal circadian rhythms related to depression?

Yes, it is observed that circadian rhythms which are sleep disorders including delayed sleep phase syndrome, advanced sleep phase syndrome, shift-work sleep disorder, jet-lag and other sleep disorders are linked with depression.

These disorders are linked with Seasonal Affected Disorder (SAD) and nonseasonal depression both, when people are depressed, their physical and mental well being is disturbed. It also disturbs their sleep cycles, overthinking, feeling of guilt, feeling of being unworthy keeps the people awake during most the time of the day as they are mentally disturbed which also disturbs them physically.

Not getting proper sleep also messes up the hormonal balance in the body causing more problems. It is likely that people who are depressed whether due to SAD or due to any other subtype of nonseasonal depression will have an irregular sleep cycle.

People who suffer from insomnia or other sleep orders may have depression and depression can be the cause of these sleep disorders.

However, this can be treated with lightbox therapy, by taking consistent therapy sessions. People with depression complain about irregular sleep cycles, they also feel the need to sleep during the day while they face difficulty sleeping at night. So, depression whether it is SAD or nonseasonal can be related to abnormal circadian rhythms. In both cases, the therapy is helpful, for depression it acts as an anti-depressant and for irregular sleep cycles, it interferes to fix the biological clock.

Can people with old age benefit from light box therapy?

People of older age groups also deal with depression whether it is SAD or nonseasonal depression. They may also suffer with abnormal circadian rhythms, so, to get treatment for these, instead of taking pills and other complex treatments, people belonging from old age groups can also benefit from light box therapy. They also need to follow the following steps in order to keep the effectiveness of the therapy in check.

The people belonging for older age must also get the light box with the advice of the doctor, the light boxes come in different intensities so they should get the one with the right intensity. Also, if they require lower intensity of light, instead of a light box, they can opt of light therapy glasses. Doctors can suggest the right equipment according to the need of the person. If the person is suffering from depression, the therapy will allow him to take a lower dose of the anti-depressant pills.

  • b) Tracking of the timing and duration

People with an older age also need to track the timing and the duration of the session that they are taking. They should consistently take the session on the recommended timing by their physician to attain the best possible results. Also, they must not increase the suggested duration on their own.

  • c) Noting risks or side effects

Anti-depressant pills, tranquilizers or sleep pills have greater adverse effects as compared to a light box. However, the lightbox also has some risks including eyestrain, nausea, headache and mania if the person is suffering from bipolar depression. People with older age are more likely to feel any of these effects as they have lesser strength, in case any of these risks or side effects are felt, the patients must consult the doctor right away to prevent any damage.

  • d) Consultation with the doctor

The doctor must be consulted at all steps of the light box therapy. When you get the equipment, when you start taking the sessions or when you plan on stopping the therapy sessions. All of these steps should be taken under the guidance of the doctor.

In conclusion, people can suffer from a variety of disorders, whether sleep orders such as abnormal circadian rhythms or Seasonal Affected Disorder (SAD).

People can also suffer from nonseasonal depression. However, the light box therapy is helpful in both ways, whether it helps in fixing the sleep cycle or whether it becomes an anti-depressant for people suffering from depression.

To achieve the effectiveness of the light box therapy, the timing of the session, the duration and intensity must be followed according to the schedule provided by the physician.

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