Light Therapy As A SAD Treatment Option
May 29, 2021 at 7:00 AM
by Dr Hilda Wong
a man with his head down a table.png

Throughout the spring and summer months, our moods always seem to be enhanced. It’s warmer outside, and we can do more outdoor activities.

But when the weather gets colder, we begin to see a shift in our moods. Sometimes it may be nothing. But for others, it’s the result of seasonal affective disorder (SAD).

There are traditional ways of dealing with SAD, but switching up treatment methods can be more effective. Today we’ll be talking about seasonal affective disorder and using light therapy as a treatment option.

What is Seasonal Affective Disorder?

Seasonal affective disorder is a psychological condition which can result in depression as the weather changes. It’s mostly experienced throughout the winter months. Women and young children experience it the most.

What Causes Seasonal Affective Disorder?

No one is sure what causes seasonal affective disorder because it can vary from person to person. However, those who live in areas with long winters and shorter sunlight are more likely to suffer from the condition.

For example, people who live in Alaska and some parts of Canada may be affected by SAD rather than a person living in California.

Another reason why someone may suffer from seasonal affective disorder may be due to a family history of psychological issues.

Symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder

SAD affects people differently, but most symptoms occur between October to April. People can experience seasonal affective disorder in both the summer and winter.

Symptoms in the winter include:

  • Weight gain
  • Irritability
  • Unhappiness
  • Fatigue during the day
  • Reduced sex drive
  • Loss of focus

In the summer, symptoms are:

  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Lack of appetite
  • Restlessness

Related: How To Manage Depression

Diagnosing Seasonal Affective Disorder

It may be challenging to diagnose seasonal affective disorder because its symptoms can look like other conditions such as bipolar disorder and mono. But to rule these out, a doctor will perform tests on you.

Doctors will also ask you when do you start experiencing the symptoms. That will be a clear indicator you’re dealing with SAD and not a traumatic event because symptoms will appear every year.

Treating Seasonal Affective Disorder

There are various ways to treat SAD. Depending on how much the symptoms affect you, doctors may choose to prescribe you medication, like antidepressants. They’ll also give you diet and exercise advice to minimize the effects of the symptoms.

However, one treatment most doctors will recommend for treating seasonal affective disorder is light therapy.

What is Light Therapy?

Light therapy, or phototherapy, is a treatment where you’re exposed to artificial light. It’s primarily used in treating those experiencing seasonal affective disorder.

Light therapy aims to make up for the lack of sun exposure during the winter. During the treatment, you’ll be sitting next to a lightbox that’s giving off an intense natural light that’s mimicking the sun.

Treatment sessions usually start around the fall and continue to springtime. Most sessions will last between 10 - 20 minutes. It will vary depending on how well you respond to the light emitted from the lightbox.

Follow this link to learn about how seasonal affective disorder may be contributing to your sleep disorder.

a family is shown test results.png

Benefits of Light Therapy

Using light therapy for seasonal affective disorder provides a more convenient way to deal with your symptoms. Here are some benefits that you’ll get from using light therapy.

It’s a Noninvasive Treatment

Doctors won’t need to put you on anesthetics for you to take part in this treatment. You sit down in front of a lightbox and choose the light option you’re most comfortable with.

Safe Procedure

Light therapy is safe because there are no prescriptions needed to boost the effectiveness of this treatment. The light from the box will help your body naturally.

Offers Convenience

Depending on your health condition, you may have to go to the doctor’s office to do your treatment. It can create scheduling frustrations, and fatigue from your procedure may set in.

Light therapy treatments last no more than 20 minutes. So they won’t take up a chunk of your day.

You’ll also be able to do light therapy at home if you purchase a lightbox. But make sure that you consult with our doctors first before taking that step.

Related: Dealing With Anxiety?

Mild Side Effects

Prescription drugs or other invasive treatments may produce serious side effects that can affect your daily productivity. The treatment you’ll receive from light therapy is a natural treatment, so your side effects will be minimal.

Your eyes and nose may be slightly dry. You may also have a slight headache, but those are because of the constant light exposure.

a doctor talking to a patient.png

Can Use It With Other Treatments

A great reason doctors suggest using light therapy to combat seasonal affective disorder is that you can use it with other treatments. The way SAD affects individuals will vary, so treatment processes will differ too.

Doctors may advise you to use light therapy and counseling sessions to combat your seasonal affective disorder. For others, it may be a combination of light therapy, counseling, and antidepressants.

Light therapy won’t harm your body physically. Using it with other treatment options will enhance your ability to tackle seasonal affective disorder.

We have various treatments for many health conditions. You can look at them here.

We’ll Help You With Seasonal Affective Disorder

When the seasons change, so can our moods. Sometimes it results in SAD, making it harder to get through everyday life.

But you don’t have to deal with it alone.

Contact Interpersonal Psychiatry to learn how we can help you manage your seasonal affective disorder. You’ll be able to participate in light therapy and other treatments that we have available to make sure you can combat SAD.

Related: What are Personality Disorders?