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Why Seasonal Affective Disorder Light Therapy Could Benefit Your Patients

The transition from hot to cold weather can be mentally exhausting for some people. While many choose to take medication or attend therapy to help them through seasonal struggles, others have turned toward a unique device for support. Seasonal affective disorder light therapy is a proven way to lessen depressive symptoms during the fall and winter months by using a light box for depression. By utilizing a SAD light box, many people diagnosed with seasonal affective disorder are finding their mood, energy and mindset in a more positive place over the winter months.

What is SAD?

SAD is short for seasonal affective disorder. This diagnosis surrounds a serious depressive episode that begins during the seasonal transition into winter and continues throughout. Some symptoms associated with SAD are low energy, mood swings, lack of interest in passions, difficulty sleeping or sleeping too much, feelings of anxiety and difficulty focusing.

Seasonal depression—or seasonal affective disorder—is more intense than the winter blues as some like to call it. SAD is a serious diagnosis of depression that should never be brushed off when the end of fall is growing near. Finding a professional who can discuss the treatment right for you is the first step and that treatment could be the use of a seasonal depression lamp.

How Does a SAD Light Box Work?

Whether you’re an intrigued medical professional or a patient looking into seasonal affective disorder light therapy, you may be unsure of how seasonal depression lamp works. The reason this therapy works is because strong light impacts cells that work with the hypothalamus, a part of your brain that helps with circadian rhythms. When the hypothalamus is activated every day at a certain time, your circadian rhythm can become normal and lessen symptoms of seasonal depression. A SAD light box plays the part of daylight during seasons that typically have less, such as fall and winter.

Providers work with their patients to determine the best solutions for them when it comes to their mental health. Though there are many options available, light therapy could be one you recommend to a patient and the following are examples of some of those recommendations.

How to Use a SAD Light Box

When taking part in seasonal affective disorder light therapy, you must sit a certain distance from your light box for about 30 minutes each day at around the same time each day. The seasonal depression lamp you use must have light intensity of at least 10,000 lux and the intensity used can be five to twenty times the light you’d experience indoors during the colder seasons. This light brightness and routine has been shown to reduce depressive symptoms for those with seasonal affective disorder.

Steps to Take Before Using a Light Box for Depression?

Before scrolling for a seasonal depression lamp to purchase, there are some critical steps that need to be followed before seasonal affective disorder light therapy even begins.

Doctor Approval

It is crucial that patients discuss all treatment options with their medical professional first. It’s important that doctors who have the ability to diagnose SAD and assist patients in finding a light box also know the types of depression lamps that are out there and which ones could be best for their patients.

If a patient were to go and purchase one themselves, it could negatively impact them if they have other conditions. For patients diagnosed with bipolar disorder, a SAD light box with too high or too low light intensity could show negative results or not be the best solution for them. Those with eye conditions such as cataracts, glaucoma and other eye damage should not try out seasonal affective disorder light therapy without talking to their doctor and opthamologist first.

Research the SAD Light Box

Patients and medical professionals need to make sure the SAD light box patients are using is safe and appropriate for the diagnoses at hand. Here are some other elements of research the doctor and patient should look into before following through with seasonal affective disorder light therapy:

  • If a seasonal depression lamp does not have verified specifications or reviews, that is an immediate red flag.
  • Your light box should emit little to no UV light during treatment sessions and should have a smooth screen to filter out any harmful rays.
  • The SAD light box must be clinically tested with peer-reviewed data available for all to read.
  • Make sure your patient is using the correct size SAD lamp so that it is always in therapeutic range for the patient.
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