Light Therapy As Effective As Drugs for Depression

Psychiatric drugs used in the treatment of depression are generally way over-prescribed and not always safe. Therefore it’s useful to know that a simple treatment, sitting in front of bright light for 30 to 60 minutes, can be just as effective as drugs in treating depression.

The Efficacy of Light Therapy in the Treatment of Mood Disorders: A Review and Meta-Analysis of the Evidence

OBJECTIVE: The purpose of this study was to assess the evidence base for the efficacy of light therapy in treating mood disorders…. Meta-analyses revealed that a significant reduction in depression symptom severity was associated with bright light treatment… and with bright light treatment in nonseasonal depression …. CONCLUSIONS: Many reports of the efficacy of light therapy are not based on rigorous study designs. This analysis of randomized, controlled trials suggests that bright light treatment and dawn simulation for seasonal affective disorder and bright light for nonseasonal depression are efficacious, with effect sizes equivalent to those in most antidepressant pharmacotherapy trials. Adopting standard approaches to light therapy’s specific issues (e.g., defining parameters of active versus placebo conditions) and incorporating rigorous designs (e.g., adequate group sizes, randomized assignment) are necessary to evaluate light therapy for mood disorders.

Exercise has also been shown to be as effective as drugs in depression, and both light and exercise have the additional advantage of few or no side effects. In another paper (which I can’t get my hands on at the moment), as little as one session of 20 minutes of light therapy was said to have shown benefit against depression.

To take advantage of this finding, you can get a bright light with wavelengths similar to the sun.

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Can long-term antidepressant use worsen depression? - Rogue Health and Fitness says November 4, 2014

[…] can be counted sleep deprivation therapy (sometimes known as wake therapy, see also here), light therapy, and exercise. NB: I’m not saying that antidepressants are never necessary or useful, only […]

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