Winter had already come, and during this season, days become shorter, whereas people spend longer nights in their homes. Aside from changing day and night durations, some people also suffer from seasonal affective disorder during winters. This condition can be described as depression related to the changing season and decreased natural light. Around 10 million Americans are affected by seasonal disorders.
Some people suffering from seasonal affective disorder use light therapy to address their issues concerning season-related depression. In light therapy, an artificial light, which is emitted by specially constructed equipment, is emitted and used to treat seasonal mood disorder. The use of light therapy in treating seasonal affective disorder is supported by certain scientific evidence obtained from research in various parts of the world. This type of treatment has been considered for a long time as treatment for winter depression.
USING LIGHT TO TREAT SEASON AFFECTIVE DISORDER
Light therapy is also known as bright light therapy or photo-therapy. This treatment can be administered at home or certain medical facilities. In this process, a patient is required to sit in front of the light therapy device, which is set to emit light that simulate natural sunlight. The light coming from the device will hit the retina of the eyes. Though claims and scientific proof regarding the effectiveness of this method have been reported, it is not clear how it affects the body. One theory states that exposure to light aids in resetting the body’s circadian rhythm. However, there are also experts who think that light therapy mainly influences brain neurotransmitters, such as dopamine, which are related to moods, including pleasure.
People may also use various device for their light therapy needs. One device includes a light box that is almost as large as a computer monitor. This device emits illuminance measuring around 10,000 lux. The light emitted is a cool white fluorescent or full-spectrum light, which is meant to optimize exposure using a filter that can screen harmful UV rays.
A number of mental health professional approve light therapy as treatment for season affective disorder. However, they are also open to other modes of treatment. There are studies showing that those who underwent light therapy experienced remission from seasonal affective disorder, whereas a lot of people also noted positive effects of the therapy. Thus, basically, the chance of a person with seasonal affective disorder getting better through therapy is 50-50.
Meanwhile, the need for alternative treatments stems from the fact the most patients undergoing light therapy cannon maintain doing the procedure regularly. The reason for this is that light therapy requires considerable amount of time. During light exposure, a person may be required to sit in front of light-emitting device for at least 30 minutes. Moreover, depending on the case of the patient, duration of exposure may still be prolonged. Thus, those who are required to undergo light therapy for longer periods of time cannot handle such burden. In fact, according to a research conducted by the National Institute of Mental Health indicated that most of the participants in the study quit undergoing light therapy after the experiments. Discontinued use of light therapy is not good for those seasonal affective disorder sufferers, whose symptoms must be continuously addressed, especially during winters when the condition is most prevalent.
OTHER MODES OF TREATMENT FOR WINTER DEPRESSION
Another possible treatment for season affective disorder includes cognitive behavioral therapy, wherein a person is thought to modify his thoughts and behaviors in order to behave well during winters. When studies compared results of light therapy and this particular method, the same initial results were noted. However, these results were not constantly observed because most participants foregone treatment with light therapy after the experimental proper. In fact, these people still failed to follow the advice given to them concerning light therapy.
In the same study, 89 patients were treated with light therapy, whereas 88 underwent cognitive behavioral therapy. Results show the recurrence of season affective disorder in around 46% of the participant under light therapy, whereas the cognitive behavioral treatment group showed a lower recurrence of 27%. Thus, when compared with light therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy proves to be effective in reducing risks associated with season affective disorder.
According to Sanam Hafees, clinical neurologist and director of neurological, development, and educational center, Comprehensive Consultation Psychological Services, the mentioned study is breaking grounds in research on seasonal affective disorder, as cognitive behavioral therapy provides new insights into possible treatment of the said health condition. Though cognitive behavioral therapy showed comparatively more significant results than light therapy, people should not be discouraged from subjecting themselves to artificial light treatment, because the cost is quite cheaper compared with cognitive behavioral treatment.
People need not to look further for light therapy devices because these things are available in various online stores. Moreover, they won’t be needing any prescription to obtain the product. At present, the Food and Drug Administration is not involved in any regulatory processes involving light therapy. Light therapy devices, especially those used in scientific research, usually cost around $150 to $350.
No law can prevent people from buying light therapy devices. However, they should be fully aware of the risks that come with using such things. Users may suffer from some side effects, though these are considered as less intense than those linked with antidepressant use. These side effects may include mild headaches, blurred vision, or eye strain. Given the activating and stimulating properties of the light used in light therapy, some people may get agitated during the treatment process. In relation to this, there are reports stating that some people experienced having suicidal thoughts because of light therapy.
Aside from treating seasonal affective disorder, it seems that light therapy, especially when used with specific medical drugs, such as Prozac, may also be used in addressing nonseasonal depression.
CONSULT MEDICAL PROFESSIONAL BEFORE LIGHT THERAPY
If they think that they are suffering from seasonal affective disorder, people should have it confirmed by medical experts. Self-diagnosis is definitely a thing that they should think about doing. Correct diagnosis is particularly important especially when the actual condition results from another mental disorder or other health conditions affecting the mentality of a person.
Moreover, before settling for light therapy, patients should still consider other available treatment options. In addition, in case that light therapy is selected, the doctor can give advice regarding the brand or device type that is effective and safe for the patients. Likewise, the doctors can guide the patients regarding the steps that must be carried out to properly conduct light therapy. This way, they can maximize the health benefits that they can get from such procedure.