Bright Light Effective for Depression


The use of bright light therapy to treat seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is well documented and evidence based but I had never heard of using light therapy to treat nonseasonal major depressive disorder (MDD). Raymond LamĀ et al, from the Department of Psychiatry at the University of British Columbia, designed an elegant study comparing the effects of light therapy, drug treatment (Fluoxetine), combination therapy (light plus drug) and sham-placebo in adults with nonseasonal depression. Their study was published this month in JAMA Psychiatry.

Treatments were given daily for 8 weeks (the light therapy consisted of a 30 min early morning exposure to a 10,000-lux fluorescent white light box) and depression ratings were taken at baseline and at the 8-week end point. Interestingly, the drug antidepressant did not perform any better than the placebo. Both the light therapy and combination therapy showed significant clinical benefit. The combination therapy had the most consistent effects.

The news that light therapy is effective for both SAD and nonseasonal depression means that there is now a new way of treating depression that has few if any side effects. For more stubborn cases a combination of light and drugs can be used or maybe even a combination of light and cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).

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