An Alternative Treatment for Seasonal Affective Disorder


Light therapy is used as a treatment for seasonal affective disorder, a form of depression commonly referred to as SAD. Light therapy involves exposure to artificial light, which is meant to mimic natural light, through a light therapy box. Light therapy is believed to affect the brain chemistry linked with mood, thus alleviating depression. The therapy has also been used for other forms of depression, as well as sleep disorders.

Light therapy is currently being considered as a treatment for several other conditions, such as Parkinson’s disease, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and attention-deficit disorder.

Another form of light therapy is used to treat the skin condition such as psoriasis. Light therapy for psoriasis uses ultraviolet light whereas ultraviolet light is filtered out for treatment of seasonal affective disorder.

The advantage of light therapy is that it has few side effects and they are usually mild and short-lived. It’s a proven method for treating SAD and can be used in addition to anti-depressants and counseling or used on its own; it can also reduce the need for higher dosages of anti-depressants. It can be useful for pregnant or breast-feeding women who can’t take anti-depressants.

The disadvantage of light therapy is that, though the side effects may be mild, they may still be unpleasant. Common side effects are headaches, nausea, eyestrain, irritability, dry mouth, sleep problems, and mania in those who suffer from bipolar disorder. However, these side effects usually disappear within a few days of starting light therapy. There is also a possibility of exposure to ultraviolet light. Light therapy boxes are designed to filter out ultraviolet light, but some may not be completely filtered out. Exposure can damage the eyes and skin.

Light therapy must also be used consistently to produce noticeable results. For maximum results, it should be used in the morning for a specified duration. Some may find a set schedule for light therapy difficult or tedious.

Some conditions, such as lupus, may be worsened by light therapy due to the fact that lupus makes the skin more sensitive to light. Medications such as St. John’s wort and some types of antibiotics may also make the skin more sensitive to light.

It is recommended that someone considering light therapy seek medical advice before undergoing treatment.


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