Seasonal affective disorder also commonly known as SAD is a sort of psychiatric disorder that disrupts the circadian cycle. SAD is primarily prevalent in the winter months and its intensity and severity has a direct relation with the duration of night and day. Seasonal affective disorder light therapy is a successful treatment for SAD. Other commonly known synonyms for the disorder include; ‘Winter Blues’, ‘Winter Depression’ or ‘Hibernation Reaction’. Contrary occurrences have also shown the disorder amongst people during spring or early summer months, thus indicating no specific seasonal pattern of the illness.
Causes and Symptoms
Although, the exact cause of SAD is not very clear, there are a myriad of reasons attributing to the disorder, like; a person’s body temperature, hormonal activity and in some cases the genetic configuration. Most significantly, diurnal variations of natural light in one complete day are known to trigger aberrations in human behaviour. The presence and absence of natural light is responsible for the production of ‘Serotonin’ and ‘Melatonin’ that greatly affect the general mental well-being of a person. Imbalance in the production of the aforesaid hormones causes SAD. The symptoms of SAD include; unhappiness, irritability, lethargy, fluctuating moods, disinterest in daily activities, pessimistic attitude, restlessness, suicidal tendency in severe cases, difficulty in concentrating etc.
Seasonal Affective Disorder Light Therapy
SAD can be treated by a multitude of medicines including anti-depressants, serotonin supplements etc, by Psychotherapy or counselling and by seasonal affective disorder light therapy or phototherapy. Although, the cure for SAD incorporates several procedures, the treatment by Light Therapy remains a preferred, proven and economical option. This involves the patient’s exposure to a bright fluorescent light originating from high power LEDs. The duration of exposure to bright light is decided as per severity of the ailment and can vary from 20 minutes to a few hours. The light is believed to considerably improve depression, prevent mood swings, perk up mental well being and aid regulate the circadian cycle.
Commercially available ‘Light Boxes’ are the most common source of fluorescent light and can be used for seasonal affective disorder light therapy. These are easily available with pharmacists and often do not require a medical prescription as a mandate for sale. A light box can cost anything from 40 to 400 dollars depending upon quality and the intensity of light produced. For the purpose of evaluation, it is pertinent to mention that the light produced during daytime is about 100,000 lux, that produced by a domestic light bulb ranges from 250-700 lux. The light box in mention produces approximately 10,000 lux.
A light box requires normal household electric supply and produces approximately 25-30 times brighter light than a normal living room light. Seasonal affective disorder light therapy is a simple, effective and monetarily reasonable technique adopted in the treatment of SAD. It is most effective when used early mornings and soon after dusk. The aim is to increase the patient’s exposure to bright light that enables sufficient production of the hormone Serotonin, vital to create a feeling of calm, control, confidence and well-being.
Seasonal affective disorder light therapy produces encouraging results when commenced at an early stage that is when the days begin to get shorter. Regular exposure to bright light with the fall of night, every day until spring season, provides significant relief from the symptoms of SAD. The best way to reap the benefits of light therapy is to work, read or watch television in the presence of the bright fluorescent light, or to sit in front of it with eyes open at a distance of about 3 metres. Amongst its diverse advantages, the seasonal affective disorder light therapy has a few inevitable demerits. These include – irritability, insomnia, headaches and eyestrains. Additionally, if the ongoing treatment is stopped abruptly for a number of days, the symptoms of SAD often tend to return. Assured relief is possible only with consistent and unswerving use of light therapy.