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Study Says Light Therapy Can Help Treat People With Bipolar Depression

With the approaching winters, more and more people are finding themselves in the loop of sadism and depression.

Sometimes bright lights are used to treat the symptoms of the seasonal affective disorder or SAD. To see how effective is light therapy for treating depression which is a part of bipolar disorder is being studied by the researchers. It’s still not known why lack of light causes winter blues. However, some research suggests that the dark days leading to increase in the production of serotonin in our skin.

Researchers are thinking of replacing the sunshine lost with the daily dose of artificial bright white light for treating depression. According to National Institute of Mental Health antidepressants, psychotherapy and Vitamin D also helps in treating depression. The lightbox or happy box is more like a desktop computer screen.

Researchers at the Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University enrolled 46 candidates (having least moderate bipolar depression) in order to test its usefulness in treating bipolar depression. Half of the patients were assigned to receive bright light therapy while the other half just received dim red placebo light. And at the same time, they kept taking their regular medication.

To make sure that the entire test is unbiased, the placebo group was instructed not to google about light therapy and also to discuss the appearance of their light with anyone else in the study.

All patients were asked to place the lightbox about 1 foot from their face for the 15-minute session to begin. Each week, exposure was intensified until it reached the dose of 60 minutes per day.  Psychiatrist Dorothy Sit, the lead author of the study, also published last month in the American Journal of Psychiatry told that the participants didn’t have to stare at the box. All they had to do was to stay in front of it. “They can read the paper, a journal, or look at their bills,” she told.

Typically patients with SAD do their light therapy right after they wake up in the morning. However, Sit’s previous research found that early morning light therapy can switch people with bipolar disorder into a manic phase. So in the latest study, she decided to engage the patients in light therapy during midday hours, between noon and 2:30 p.m.

Sit found that after 4-6 weeks, 68% of patients who were using bright white light therapy accomplished abrogation of depression as compared to 22% of patients who gained the placebo light. The bright-light patients returned back to work and were now looking after things at home like normal functioning individuals told Sit.

Sit as well as other researchers also told that it’s important for people with bipolar disorder to seek light therapy under professional guidance.

According to Al Lewy, who is a professor emeritus at Oregon Health and Science University and pioneer of light therapy, the result of the study is highly preliminary with an intriguing result.

Lewy also says that light therapy can trigger hypomania so it should be conducted the supervision of doctor particularly a psychiatrist.

Bipolar disorder or manic-depressive illness is a brain disorder that causes an abnormal shift in mood, activity levels, energy, and the ability to perform daily tasks, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. In U.S. alone about 3% of the adult population suffers from this disorder.

According to psychiatrist Ken Duckworth, medical director of patient advocacy group “National Alliance on Mental Illness,” this study offers a new light into the pathway for treatment since bipolar depression is one of the most strenuous types of depression to treat.

Although medications such as mood stabilizers help in treating the manic phase of bipolar disorder they are not effective in treating the depressive phase, says Duckworth. And people who are suffering from the bipolar disorder should spend most of their time on the distressing end of the spectrum.

Sit also says that it’s important to see if her findings duplicated in future research, which shall investigate further how the light affects the body’s circadian rhythms at an unusual pace of the day, and how it affects the bipolar symptoms.

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