2 posts tagged “depression treatment”

Light therapy for depression: What is it, and how does it work?

Posted January 31st, 2018 by

Bright light therapy is a treatment that’s become increasingly common for treating seasonal affective disorder, a condition that impacts many during the winter months. We sat down with our in-house research specialist to discuss light therapy – what it is, how it works and if it can help treat other types of depression in addition to seasonal affective disorder.

What is light therapy?

Light therapy, sometimes called blue light therapy or light box therapy, involves sitting or working, for a prescribed amount of time, near a device that gives off light that mimics daylight. It’s thought to ease symptoms of depression by impacting brain chemicals linked to mood and sleep.

Light therapy effectiveness: What the research says

While additional studies are needed to fully understand the role of light therapy, so far results from clinical trials investigating the effectiveness of this treatment on people with major depressive disorder (MDD) have been generally positive.

  • One study, involving 50 inpatients with severe MDD, found that when researchers combined the antidepressant venlafaxine with light therapy, recipients experienced “significantly lower HDRS depression scores” than those only taking the antidepressant. The HDRS (Hamilton Depression Rating Scale) is a questionnaire that helps provide an indication of depression severity.
  • Another 8-week trial involving 122 participants living with non-seasonal MDD found that light therapy, both on its own and in combination with the SSRI fluoxetine, was effective and well tolerated in those who participated.
  • Another study found mixed results, highlighting the need for more research to fully understand the role of light therapy

It’s important to note that while these studies showed positive efficacy, researchers still don’t know what “dose” or duration of light therapy is best and for what variations of depression.

Results: What you can expect

Light therapy is unlikely to cure major depression, but it may ease symptoms, especially those related to the season, and might help you feel better. Here’s what some PatientsLikeMe members have said about using light therapy as a treatment:

Check out side effects, dosages and costs members have reported for this treatment.

Choosing a light box

Although you don’t need a prescription to buy a light therapy box, it’s best to ask your doctor or medical health provider if light therapy is a good option for you. Before beginning treatment, you should discuss whether you need to take any special precautions, and what type of light therapy box would best meet your needs so you get the most benefit and minimize side effects. You should also discuss how to introduce light therapy into your treatment regimen. Also, know that health insurance companies rarely cover the cost of this treatment.

According to the Mayo Clinic, a light box should:

  • Provide an exposure to 10,000 lux of light
  • Emit as little UV light as possible

Recommendations for using the light box typically include:

  • Use the light box within the first hour of waking up in the morning
  • 20-30 minutes is generally the recommended amount of time
  • Use at a distance of about 16-24 inches from the face
  • Eyes should be open, but not looking directly at the light

Things to consider:

  • Is it made specifically to treat seasonal affective disorder? Some lights are designed to treat skin disorders, make sure you’re selecting the right one for your needs!
  • How much UV light does it release? UV light can damage your eyes if used incorrectly. Light boxes used to treat SAD should filter out most or all UV light.
  • Is it the style you need? Light boxes come in all shapes and sizes – the effectiveness of light therapy depends on daily use so choose a product that’s convenient for you.

Light boxes are designed to be safe and effective, but they’re not approved or regulated by the FDA so speak with your healthcare provider to understand your options. Read more about things to consider before choosing a product here. Do you use a light box? Share your experience and advice in the comments for choosing a product.

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Mike Wallace, Depression and Me

Posted June 11th, 2012 by

In honor of Men’s Health Week, we are pleased to present a guest post by PatientsLikeMe member tiredoftired, a young man who has been living with major depressive disorder since 2007.  Don’t miss this moving essay about how Mike Wallace’s passing earlier this year impacted and inspired him.

As I was driving to therapy on an April afternoon, I heard a news report that Mike Wallace, an original host of the television show 60 Minutes, had passed away.  I was intrigued when the short segment highlighted Wallace’s accomplishments in his battle with depression.  I was only somewhat familiar with the show, but it was obvious from the report that he had a decorated career as a journalist and his professional accomplishments could have easily taken the full slot.  Having struggled with depression myself, I felt compelled to investigate his life further.

Mike and Mary Wallace.  Photo Courtesy of CBS News.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with his work as I was, Wallace was a pioneer of the newsmagazine format, which shaped journalistic television.  He was a pit bull of a correspondent; with his aggressively confrontational approach, he posed direct questions that others were too afraid to ask, often leaving the subject shaken.  Wallace interviewed some of the most eminent, and even fearsome, people and did not hold back on his interrogation-like technique.

But Wallace said that his greatest accomplishment in life was that he survived.  Wallace endured several bouts of severe depression throughout his life, the first of which left him in such emptiness and despair that he attempted suicide as a means of escape.  He used his personal experiences with depression to share ideas that would give other sufferers advice and hope.  Reading about his life made me feel the same comfort he provided to others when he was alive, and I have become encouraged by lessons he transmitted.  Here are the top four:

  • There is no shame in depression: Wallace constantly repeated that depression does not signify an emotional weakness.  The pain, inability to cope and despair are unfathomable to those who have not experienced depression.  It is not a sadness that is surmountable by sheer willpower.  Aside from reassuring sufferers that their pain and disabilities were justified, it comforted them by seeing someone well-respected using his high-profile position to dissolve social stigma.
  • There is no shame in asking for help: The stigma can prevent people from seeking help and make them embarrassed that, unlike others, they are unable to push through sadness themselves.  Wallace said that the single most important thing you can do is to go and talk to someone.  He stressed that it is impossible for one to handle alone, and he encouraged people to seek therapy and take medication, as well as emphasizing the importance of social support from family and friends.
  • You are not alone: During depressive episodes, Wallace often talked to two close friends that also experienced depression.  By talking to those who could truly empathize, he felt comforted and validated.  Not only was he reassured that what he was feeling was normal, they were able to give him valuable insight and ideas.
  • There is a light at the end of the tunnel: Wallace’s friends also gave him hope.  He saw that they had been through the darkness of depression and survived.  And he passed along that message to others. As bad as it seems now, he told people, look at how he emerged from that same prison and went on to live a happy, productive life.

Mike Wallace has inspired me to perpetuate these messages and give others the same comfort and hope he gave me.  Depression is a real medical illness and pursuing treatment is nothing to be embarrassed about. With the help of mental health professionals and a strong support system, we have the ability to fight through the darkness.  By doing that, we can do more than just survive – we can build productive and meaningful lives.

Learn more about Mike Wallace’s struggle with depression in this candid CBS interview from 2006. Also, if you’re living with depression yourself, we invite you to join PatientsLikeMe’s depression community and connect with more than 11,000 others like you.