seasonal affective disorder (SAD) doesn't cure the
seasonal depression, but it can help relieve your symptoms. Light therapy is
the main treatment for SAD, and research is continuing to determine the most
effective way to use it. Medicines and counseling may also be used to treat
therapy is an effective treatment for SAD.1
There are two types of light therapy: bright light treatment, in which
you sit in front of a "light box" for a certain amount of time (usually in the
morning), and dawn simulation, which is done while you sleep. For dawn
simulation, a low-intensity light is timed to go on at a certain time in the
morning before you wake up, and it gradually gets brighter.
boxes are available commercially and use fluorescent lights that are brighter
than indoor lights but not as bright as sunlight.
Ultraviolet light, full-spectrum light, tanning lamps,
and heat lamps should not be used. You place the light box at a specified
distance from you on a desk or in front of a chair and use it while you read,
eat breakfast, or work at a computer. Light therapy is usually prescribed for
30 minutes to 2 hours, depending on the intensity of the light used and on
whether you are starting out or are using it to maintain a response.
may take as little as 3 to 5 days or up to 2 weeks before you respond to light
therapy. Stopping light therapy will likely cause you to relapse back into
Light therapy may work by
resetting your "biological clock" (circadian rhythms), which controls sleeping and waking.
If you have
eye problems or you take medicines that make you light-sensitive, ask your
doctor about whether light therapy is safe for you. Before you start treatment,
tell your doctor about any other conditions you have and about the medicines
you are taking .
Light therapy will need to be continued for the
entire time you are depressed. People who discontinue treatment usually lapse
back into depression.3
- Seasonal Affective Disorder: Using Light Therapy
effectively treat episodes of depression in people who have seasonal affective
disorder. You may start to feel better within 1 to 3 weeks of taking
antidepressant medicine. But it can take as many as 6 to 8 weeks to see more
improvement. If you have questions or concerns about your medicines, or if you
do not notice any improvement by 3 weeks, talk to your doctor. Antidepressants
can be used along with light therapy or alone.3 The
most common antidepressants used to treat people with seasonal affective