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New Therapy for Seasonal Affective Disorders

New Therapy for Affective DisordersAccording to the Harvard Mental Health Letter, bright white light therapy has been used to treat seasonal affective disorder (SAD) for more than 20 years.

Although it remains a mainstay of treatment, in the past few years researchers have investigated ways to improve and refine light therapy.

Improvements are necessary for three reasons.

First, light therapy doesn’t work for everyone. Studies have reported that 50 percent to 80 percent of patients achieve complete relief and that remission may depend upon carefully individualized timing of light exposure.

Second, dosing remains a major question. The recommendation for 30 minutes of daily exposure to 10,000 lux is based on average response to white light. Finally, side effects, while mild for many patients, may be more of a concern for others.

Dr. Michael Miller, editor in chief of the Harvard Mental Health Letter, notes that investigations are now under way to see if changing the timing or type of light therapy might improve response or reduce side effects.

Some areas of study:

  • Better timing. Researchers reported that remission from SAD was twice as likely if light therapy was precisely calibrated to melatonin rhythms—which may vary by several hours from one individual to the next.
  • Dawn simulation. In this variation, a preset light device turns on before a patient awakens. Light intensity increases gradually over a period of 90 minutes. Although studies so far have been small, they have also been promising.
  • Blue light. Studies have found that cells in the retina are particularly sensitive to blue light, suggesting that this wavelength may powerfully affect circadian rhythms. Researchers are investigating whether blue light might provide the same benefit as white light but with less exposure time.

Source: Harvard Health Publications

New Therapy for Seasonal Affective Disorders

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2015). New Therapy for Seasonal Affective Disorders. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 12, 2018, from https://psychcentral.com/news/2008/11/07/new-therapy-for-seasonal-affective-disorders/3287.html

 

Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 6 Oct 2015
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 6 Oct 2015
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.