Before buying a light box for seasonal affective disorder

There are many light box products on the market that claim to help seasonal affective disorder (SAD), but before you invest in a product, you should understand the following. Not all light boxes meet the recommended requirements for treating SAD.

What is seasonal affective disorder?

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression related to seasonal changes.The current official diagnosis is major depression with a seasonal pattern. Therefore, it starts and ends at about the same time each year.

If you are like most SAD patients, your symptoms will start in late autumn or early winter and continue throughout the winter, draining your energy and making you depressed.Rarely, SAD can cause depression in the spring or early summer.

In either case, symptoms may start from mild and then become more severe as the season progresses. Common symptoms of SAD include:of

  • Depression that comes and goes at the same time each year, usually starting in autumn and winter, but in some cases in summer
  • Lack of energy; feelings of fatigue and lethargy; sleeping more than usual
  • Increased appetite, sometimes accompanied by weight gain
  • Cravings for high-carbohydrate and sugary foods
  • Difficulty in concentrating and concentrating on normal daily work
  • More severe premenstrual syndrome (PMS) or premenstrual dysphoria (PMDD) symptoms
  • Stay away from friends and family
  • Low libido
  • Anxious feeling

Don’t think of that annual feeling as just a “winter blue” or seasonal fear, you must overcome it on your own. Take measures to maintain a stable mood and motivation throughout the year.

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SAD and major depression

Seasonal affective disorder is a subtype of major depression, and it changes with the seasons.Therefore, the symptoms of major depression may be part of SAD, such as:

  • Frustrated almost every day most of the time
  • Feel hopeless or worthless
  • Low energy
  • Lost interest in activities that you once liked
  • Have sleep problems
  • Changes in appetite or weight
  • Feeling dull or agitated
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Thoughts of death or suicide

Types of SAD

There are two different forms of seasonal affective disorder; fall/winter SAD and spring/summer SAD. Symptoms specific to SAD in winter, sometimes called winter depression, may include irritability, lack of energy, social withdrawal, allergies to rejection, and a feeling of heaviness in the arms and legs starting in autumn and winter.of

Symptoms specific to summer onset of SAD, sometimes called summer depression, may include depression, insomnia, weight loss, loss of appetite, and anxiety beginning in the spring and summer of the year.of


If you are diagnosed with SAD, there are many different treatment options. SAD treatment may include phototherapy (phototherapy), psychotherapy, and medication. Light therapy is helpful for 50% to 80% of SAD patients.of

To treat SAD, the minimum power rating of the light box needs to be at least 10,000 lux. This bright light is about 5 to 20 times that of normal indoor lighting and has been shown to reduce the symptoms of SAD.of

In order for phototherapy to be effective, you need to use the light box for at least 30 minutes a day. Although direct exposure is important, you should avoid looking directly at the light.Instead, try to do things to keep busy and distracting, such as reading a book, watching TV, or using a computer. The light box is generally used first thing in the morning.

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Before buying a light box

Although light boxes are generally safe and effective, they are not regulated or approved by the FDA for the treatment of SAD. However, the Environmental Therapy Center (CET) has requirements for effective light box therapy. Make sure that any equipment you buy meets these specifications.

Talk to your doctor first

Although you can buy it without a prescription, be sure to consult your doctor before starting treatment with the light box. In some cases, phototherapy may not be recommended, for example if you have bipolar disorder. If you have eye diseases such as eye damage, glaucoma or cataracts, you should consult your ophthalmologist before using the light box.

Clinical test

The light box you buy should have data from peer-reviewed clinical trials to support its effectiveness in treating SAD symptoms.

Sufficient output

When you are sitting at a more comfortable distance from the light box, the light box should provide you with 10,000 lux of illumination. Avoid missing or unverified specifications for products.

UV filter

Fluorescent lamps should have a smooth diffuser screen to filter out harmful ultraviolet (UV).The light box you choose should emit as little ultraviolet light as possible.

Reduce glare

In order to minimize glare, light should be projected downward to the eyes at a certain angle.

Sufficient size

A larger light box is better because when a smaller light box is used, even slight head movements can take the eyes out of the light treatment range.

Reduce or prevent symptoms

In addition to phototherapy, there are some steps you can take to help prevent SAD or reduce the severity of symptoms:

  • Increase your light, especially in autumn and winter. If possible, increase lighting in your home, open curtains and blinds to let light in, and spend a little time outside each day.
  • Exercise regularly. Increasing the amount of physical activity each day may help relieve some depressive moods.Walking or jogging outdoors every day may be particularly helpful, as it also includes increased sun exposure.
  • Try taking vitamin D supplements. Although the research is inconclusive, some evidence suggests that increasing the amount of vitamin D in the diet may help prevent or alleviate SAD.Before you start taking any supplements, be sure to consult your doctor to prevent potential drug interactions with other drugs you may be taking.
  • Reduce caffeine intake. Insist on drinking caffeinated beverages such as tea, coffee and soda only in the morning. Drinking caffeine later in the day may interfere with your ability to sleep well at night, and lack of sleep may exacerbate depression.

If you have been using phototherapy but still have SAD symptoms, please consult your doctor. You may need different or additional treatments, such as medication or psychotherapy, to relieve seasonal depression.of