Many people with chronic conditions like tinnitus or fibromyalgia suffer from depression. In some people this can be a seasonal depression or seasonal affective disorder (SAD) sometimes called the winter blues. As the days grow greyer and shorter, related mood change can set in. People may feel like sleeping all the time, have little energy and may realize they are feeling sad. If people struggle with depression year round, winter blues can deepen the depression.
There are different treatments for the winter blues. This may include medication, counselling therapy and light therapy. With light therapy, the person tries to expose themselves to sunlight as much as possible. Special SAD lamps or light therapy lamps or boxes are also available. The Mayo Clinic states that light therapy is of proven effectiveness for treating seasonal affective disorder and light therapy is seen as its main form of treatment. The effectiveness of light therapy for treating SAD may be linked to the fact that light therapy makes up for lost sunlight exposure and resets the body’s internal clock. It is a safe and easy to use therapy with no particular side effects unlike medications for depression. Research also suggests that light therapy can be helpful for non-seasonal depression.
If you are trying light therapy, morning therapy is usually recommended. The lamp needs to be used regularly every day to get the full benefit. Lamps are typically a full spectrum light (without damaging UV rays) and come in different styles with various features depending on the manufacturer. The most important feature is that the lamp needs to have 10,000 lux of light energy. They are available from various on-line retailers and stores.
I struggle with depression, and found out last year that I also have seasonal affective disorder. The rainy dreary winter climate where I live doesn’t help. I didn’t want to try light therapy but sitting in the sunshine when I could just wasn’t enough for me. So I finally ended up getting a special SAD lamp and used it for 30 minutes every morning over the fall and winter. From around October through to March. I set it up so the light is shining towards my eyes while I’m eating breakfast or watching the morning news. As the months crept by, I noticed that I definitely felt better even in December and January when it used to be a big struggle just getting through the days. I would really recommend Light Therapy. It does help. The only “side effect” I noticed was that the lamp is so bright that after I turn it off, there is an after-image or glow in my vision, but it goes away after a bit. In Canada, the lamp I bought was around $200 which is expensive but the benefit was worth it for me.
If you suffer from depression or seasonal affective disorder, you may want to talk to your care provider about trying Light Therapy. It has certainly helped a lot of people cope better.
©Jan L. Mayes 2014