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).

Lighting Up At Night?

A new study led by Samer Hattar at John Hopkins University has found that prolonged exposure to bright light at night affects the brain’s centre for mood, memory and learning. This can result in depression and lower mental function. His advice is to “switch on fewer lamps, and stick to less intense light bulbs”.


Half Full Or Half Empty?

Have you ever had a spell where nothing is going the way you want it to…in fact everything seems to be going wrong in the worst possible way? Of course you have, we all get those spells…but did you know that the way we think influences the extent to which we’re affected by those periods of bad fortune. More specifically it’s our thinking in relation to the 3 Ps…personal, pervasive and permanent that make the real difference. Pessimists will tend to view problems as being personal (“It’s my fault”), pervasive (“I can’t do anything correctly”) and permanent (“It will never change”) whereas optimists view problems as situational, specific and transient. Martin Seligman’s work demonstrated that a pessimistic explanatory style can cause learned helplessness (inaction and passivity) and depression. Further research has shown that it can also lead to a weakened immune system and an increased vulnerability to minor ailments and major illnesses.

Probability ensures that life brings us a bit of everything: the good, the bad and the in between. Our challenge during the bad times is to keep our resolve and focus, and perhaps even learn from the experience. Our task during the good times is to take full advantage of the opportunities, celebrate and really relish the moment.

So if you happen to be going through a rough patch…it’s not your fault, it happens to us all…notice how it doesn’t affect every aspect of you life…and rejoice in the knowledge that good times are just around the corner!