Light Therapy For Depression No Linger A Seasonal Thing

We take sunlight for granted. In our hubris we produce our own version of light and imagine it an acceptable replacement. Oddly, we have a greater appreciation of plants’ need for natural light than our own. Recent research now adds depression to the already lengthy list of illnesses associated with inadequate sunlight.

In the early 1980’s, knowledge that light could shift circadian and seasonal rhythms in animals coincided with a growing appreciation of a subset of depressed patients who experienced a seasonal pattern. The syndrome was called seasonal affective disorder (SAD). SAD is a condition characterized by the annual recurrence of depressive episodes in fall and winter followed by remission in spring and summer.

Bright Light Therapy (BIT) quickly became a first-line clinical standard for treatment of SAD. Numerous studies have proven its efficacy. Unlike the disturbingly low response rates of the two dozen medications for typical depression, SAD has proven astonishingly responsive to BlT (80%)5. Light therapy is also remarkably safe and free of side effects that can make antidepressants an unappealing option.


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