Light therapy–also called phototherapy–is really starting to gain major recognition. Some major journals have recently published significant studies, and for those of you who suffer from any kind of mood disorder at all, you might want to pay close attention.
First, a word on light therapy is in order. It involves artificial light that is used to heal the mind and body. Humans have a special relationship with the sun. Most of us feel uplifted when we get in a few rays. Scientists have harnessed the mood-lifting power of the sun and packaged it into a special machine that patients can use at a clinic. Eventually, patients will be able to use this machine at home, as many companies now produce it for private use. The theory goes like this: your pupils have a slew of photoreceptors that take light and transform it into electrical impulses that are sent to your brain. In the brain, these impulses guide many bodily functions. For instance, they control blood pressure levels, body temperature, mood, immune function, the respiratory system, and all the other things that go on inside your body that you don’t consciously think about.
So, you can clearly see how light can guide your health. Since the early 1980s, light therapy has been used to help cure seasonal affective disorder (SAD), which is a type of depression caused by the extended darkness that occurs so often in winter. On this note, we’ve always known that light therapy is pretty useful. But now, researchers have found that its benefits go way beyond just treating SAD. A study by the American Psychiatric Association has proved that light therapy can treat any mood disorder, including depression of any cause, anxiety, and even eating disorders.
They looked at 20 previous studies that have been performed over the past few decades and are considered of high quality. Incredibly, light therapy can treat mood disorders just as well as antidepressant drug therapy can– and the latter carries a far greater risk of side effects and has been under a lot of scrutiny for years. The only side effects from light therapy include headache, fatigue, irritability, eye sensitivity to light, and temporary sleep disruption. And by no means will you experience any of these side effects–they are just possibilities.
These findings make for great news for people who suffer from depression and other mood disorders but don’t know what they want to do for them. And there are a lot of people who suffer from these disorders–tens of millions of North Americans, in fact, at any given time could experience symptoms. The answer doesn’t have to be antidepressants, as we can now plainly see.