Depression: Light Therapy

IT IS the season to be jolly, but about 18.5 percent (1 in 5) or 43.8 million adults in the United States experiences some type of mental illness during this time of the year, or in a given year, and 10 million (4.2 percent) have the serious form which adversely affects their life. One in five (21.4 percent) of those between the ages of 13 and 18 battles with severe depression at some point in their life. For those between 8 and 15, the prevalence is about 13 percent. Bipolar disorder is seen in 2.16 percent and 1.1 percent live with schizophrenia, while 18.1 percent have anxiety disorder like PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder, phobias, and obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Increased risk for suicide

Barely 41 percent of adults in the US with a mental health condition received mental health services in the past year because many elected not to seek medical care for various reasons. Depression is more common among women and those between 40 and 59, and those in the poverty level are about two-and-a-half times more prone to have the illness. The condition is serious, with physical symptoms, affecting cognitive function and mood. It is associated with increased rates of chronic diseases, medical utilization and impaired overall performance. Depression costs the United States about $193.2 billion in lost earnings per year. It is estimated that an average of 20 veterans commit suicide and more than 90 percent of children who committed suicide had mental health condition.

All of us have had some degree of depression at one time or the other because of the stressors we face in life. But this type of depression is a mild, transient, natural mental reaction to usual challenges we encounter and not the clinical disease we call mental disorder. It is when it persists, becomes worse and negatively impacts our daily activities that we label it serious depression.

Let there be light

Light therapy has been found effective in the treatment of seasonal affective disorder (SAD), which happens at a certain time of the year, mainly in the fall or winter, during the week of Thanksgiving, Christmas, and first part of the new year. These are the periods when people have very little exposure to natural light, the sun, because they stay indoors to avoid the cold and wintry season, or a family member is missed, a time of the year when loneliness could be overpowering, especially for parents with empty nest syndrome and seniors who live alone.



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