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Light Therapy for Depression

Light Therapy for Depression

Light has been used since ages to treat various kinds of diseases. Light therapy has evolved to become one of the healthier options to treat depression. In this article we tell you how this therapy works, and the various risk factors associated with it.
Kundan Pandey
Humans have been using photo therapy or light therapy as an alternative medicine since thousands of years. Even sunlight is regarded as sacred and pious in many civilizations, and is worshiped as a life-sustaining force of nature. Medical advancements have proven that light energy has the ability to treat various problems. Light therapy is now seen as a cure for seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Also known as winter blues, SAD is considered as a major depression disorder that occurs during fall or winter and leads to symptoms like depression, hopelessness, anxiety, loss of energy, oversleeping, weight gain, drastic change in appetite, and episodes of difficulty in concentration on a specific topic.

How Does it Work?

The treatment process of light therapy is simple. The patient is given a device, called light therapy box and this box emits light that is similar to the normal outdoor light. When light through the light box emanates and falls on the patient's body, it brings chemical changes in the brain, thereby easing symptoms of SAD. These boxes are sold at various medical stores and are also available on the Internet. Mostly, your doctor will recommend a light therapy box after examining your condition. Avoid using it on your own; the guidance of an expert is necessary. Although it's easy to familiarize yourself with the usage of the box, it is good to be guided under an expert for the first few sessions.

During light therapy sessions, you will be made to sit in front of the box so that light passing from the box can enter your eyes. You must not stare by bringing both eyes very close to the box as high intensity light can damage your eyes. Just sit near the box and the light from the box will reach your eyes. When the eyes absorbs the light rays, they will automatically cause chemical changes in the brain and help in relief from SAD symptoms. Consistency is necessary in light therapy for depression treatment. You have to sit every morning, just after you wake up for a session of at least 15 minutes. The sessions will also depend on the intensity of light.


Generally speaking, light therapy is a safe form of treatment and even if a few symptoms exist, they are mild in nature. Some of the most common symptoms that a patient may experience after light therapy treatment are headache, nausea, eye strain, irritability, mania, hyperactivity, dry mouth, and problems in sleeping. Even if these symptoms occur, they subside after sometime. Moreover, side effects of light therapy can be controlled by reducing treatment for sometime. It is important to consult a medical expert before an individual seeks this alternative treatment option. This is because people with skin disorders, history of skin cancer, eye-related problems and systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) are at a higher risk of developing side effects if they are treated with light therapy. There are some demerits, mostly in cases of severe bipolar disorder and extreme maniac depressions. Hence, it is good to consult a doctor before starting the treatment. Studies are being conducted to get more concrete results on the effectiveness of the therapy for the treatment of major depression disorders. Still, when viewed holistically, it has many advantages that outweigh its demerits. For numerous cases, light therapy is beneficial like:
  • It is advised in cases of seasonal affective disorder. It has been proven by medical research that light therapy works in such cases.
  • Light therapy has very few side effects and it is risk free.
  • Women during pregnancy, or those who breastfeed their baby, are often discouraged to take antidepressants. For them, light therapy can be a good option.
  • Using this therapy is also healthy for people who wish to consume less antidepressants.
  • In many cases, it is used in combination with antidepressants, and can be a wonderful depression medication.
To reap the benefits of the therapy, and not suffer from any untoward side effects, you should purchase light therapy products for treating depression only from authentic medical stores, and use it as per the guidelines of the doctor.