Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Bright Light Therapy for Depression


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Bright light therapy is well established as an effective treatment for seasonal effective disorder, a type of seasonal depression that's extremely common during this dark, dreary part of the year. But a new research study indicates it may be helpful in treating Major Depressive Disorder, too.

Major Depressive Disorder is an extremely hard to treat, dangerous form of depression. Major Depressive Disorder (also known as Major Depression or Clinical Depression) is diagnosed when someone has experienced depressed mood or loss of interest in activities for an extended period and their life activities have been adversely impacted by their symptoms. Many people living with it take their own lives despite trying many options for treatment.

Bright light therapy involves sessions of sitting in front of a light box to receive intense light exposure. The latest research indicates the type of light is less important than the intensity of the light. The light should match the level of light right around sunrise or sunset. Patients also benefit more from receiving the therapy immediately after waking up.

This particular study was isolated to patients 60 years or older. They were selected because the elderly can't see as much light as younger people. Though it was a small study, the results were profound. Fifty-eight percent of study participants reported fewer symptoms of depression. The effect of the bright light therapy on this improvement held up even after the results were controlled for other therapies patients had received, age, gender, etc. The study only lasted three weeks, so it is impossible to know how these results would stand up over time.

Researchers think bright light therapy works by reducing the hormone cortisol, a substance produced by the adrenal gland that is often associated with stress. This relationship between cortisol and stress may help explain why activities like relaxation breathing, yoga and meditation can help manage depression. Light therapy may also stimulate production of serotonin, often called the feel good hormone.

Sources:
Treating Depression: How Bright Light Can Help
Depression & Major Depressive Disorder
Bright Light Treatment of Winter Depression
Q&A on Bright Light Therapy
Choosing a Light Box
Cortisol & Stress: How to Stay Healthy


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DISCLAIMER: Nothing on this site constitutes medical or legal advice. I am a patient who is engaged and educated and enjoys sharing my experiences and news about migraines, pain and depression. Please consult your own health care providers for advice on your unique situation.