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Significance Of Light Therapy In The Treatment Of SAD

Mar 10, 2008
Given that the major causative factor for SAD or Seasonal Affective Disorder is lack of exposure to sunlight, it is only natural that light is a major element in the treatment of this condition. Treatment with light therapy gives patients suffering from SAD a chance to lose that all-pervasive sense of sadness and gloom and helps them regain their brighter and happier outlook.

Understanding light therapy

Light therapy or bright light therapy is an effective method of treating seasonal affective disorder and has been in use since the 1980s. Light therapy is now considered standard treatment for SAD by mental health professionals all over the world.

A patient undergoing light therapy is required to sit in front of and facing a light box. A light box is a specially designed device that contains fluorescent tubes or bulbs, which emit a light that is similar to outdoor light. The key feature of light therapy is that it works only when the rays of light enter the body through the eyes. Merely exposing the skin or the rest of the body is basically ineffective and will not produce the desired results. However, looking directly into the source of light can cause considerable damage to the eyes. During light therapy it is important that the patient has their face slightly averted so that the rays of light can enter the retina without damaging the eyes in any way. The bulbs in the light box are also covered with a plastic screen that effectively blocks out harmful UV rays.

Undergoing light therapy is akin to sitting outdoors under the sun and causes similar biochemical reactions in the brain that work to relieve the symptoms of SAD and lift the patient's mood. However, the light emitted by these bulbs is quite different in quality and intensity from that emitted in normal household bulbs, so sitting in front of a lamp in the living room cannot be used to replace light therapy.

Although light therapy boxes can be purchased over-the-counter without a prescription, as with any other medical treatment it is always advisable to get the advice of your doctor before you start.

Benefits of light therapy

Light therapy is especially beneficial for SAD sufferers who are averse to taking antidepressants either because they have been ineffective in the past or because they find the side effects of antidepressants intolerable.

It is also a good alternative for expectant women who are suffering from seasonal affective disorder but are reluctant to take antidepressants for fear of its effect on the developing fetus.

Light therapy is an affordable option for those individuals whose insurance policy does not cover mental health services.

Light therapy is helping in treating other conditions including obsessive, compulsive disorder, postpartum depression, premenstrual dysphoric disorder and other forms of depression besides seasonal affective disorder.

Individuals whose skin is sensitive to light or those who have an existing condition that sensitize their eyes to bright light may be advised not to opt for light therapy as a way to treat their condition. Light therapy is also not prescribed for individuals who take any kind of anti-inflammatory medication or antibiotics that react with sunlight.
About the Author
Learn about Sunbox SAD Light Therapy Products and Soleil Sun Alarm Dawn Simulators at http://www.lighttherapyworld.com/
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