Bright light therapy has often been used for people with seasonal affective disorder (SAD)—but a new study shows that people whose depression symptoms are not seasonal may also benefit.
Light therapy is a procedure where people are exposed to a specialized light thought to help improve their mood. It’s believed the therapy may correct circadian rhythms that have been disturbed.
In the study published Wednesday in the journal JAMA Psychiatry, researchers studied the effectiveness of light treatment used on its own or in tandem with antidepressants. Over an eight-week period, the researchers randomly split 122 people with nonseasonal major depressive disorder into three groups. One group received light therapy and a placebo pill, one group received an antidepressant and placebo light device (it was a deactivated ion generator;participants could not tell whether it was on), and one group received the light therapy and the antidepressant.
The researchers found the combination treatment or just the light treatment was more effective at combating depression symptoms compared to people using the placebo.
“Light therapy is a non-medication treatment option for people with both seasonal and nonseasonal depression,” says study author Dr. Raymond Lam, a professor in the department of psychiatry at the University of British Columbia. “It has benefits when used alone but is especially effective when combined with an antidepressant.”
The study size is small, so more research is needed, but it suggests an additional method of treatment worth consideration.