Light Therapy for Adults with ADD

by Eileen Bailey Health Writer

It's wintertime. Days are shorter and for many of us, the days are cold and the nights are even colder. The sun warms us only slightly and just doesn't seem to stay around long enough. We long for warmer weather, when more time can be spent out of doors, enjoying the sunshine and allowing us to use up some of the extra energy.

But no matter how we try, it is impossible to rush the seasons, they will come and go as they please, sometimes winter weather doesn't begin until late in December or January, sometimes we are already bundled up by early November and stay that way until well into March and beyond. The weather is out of our control, we must deal with what Mother Nature gives us.

But for some, light therapy might be a good substitute. This type of therapy provides exposure to light somewhere in between sunlight and indoor light. A high-intensity fluorescent light (it filters out ultraviolet rays) is normally used. A person will sit in front of the lamp for anywhere between 30 minutes and 2 hours each morning.

Light therapy has been found to be effective in treating seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a type of seasonal depression most common during the fall and winter seasons when people have less exposure to sunlight.

But a study completed a few years ago found that light therapy might also help to reduce symptoms of ADHD. The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto, Canada, completed a research study in 2006, focusing on adult ADD. In addition, since many adults with ADD have symptoms of depression, the study examined whether the light therapy could have a positive impact on this.

According to the results of the study:

  • 55% of participants had a decrease in depression symptoms

  • 28% of participants showed improved symptoms of ADHD, specifically symptoms of: inattention, difficulty sustaining effort, impulsiveness, hypo-arousal and fatigue.

The results of the research showed the improvement in ADHD symptoms to be separate from a decrease in symptoms of SAD. This indicates the light therapy specifically helped to reduce ADHD symptoms, rather than having ADHD symptoms improve as a result of treating SAD.

Although adults with ADHD should not yet run out to purchase equipment for light therapy or insist on having this type of treatment, it does show promise in helping adults with ADHD manage through the long winter months.


"An Open Trial in Light Therapy in Adult Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder", 2006, Rybak et al, PubMed

Eileen Bailey
Meet Our Writer
Eileen Bailey

Eileen Bailey is an award-winning author of six books on health and parenting topics and freelance writer specializing in health topics including ADHD, Anxiety, Sexual Health, Skin Care, Psoriasis and Skin Cancer. Her wish is to provide readers with relevant and practical information on health conditions to help them make informed decisions regarding their health care.