New Weapon Against Bipolar Disorder Depression: Light Therapy

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Daily doses of light therapy might help some people with bipolar disorder, according to a study funded by the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health and published online in The American Journal of Psychiatry. The study, led by Dorothy Sit, MD, associate professor of psychiatry at Northwestern University in Chicago, found that light therapy helped treat depression in subjects with bipolar disorder in as little as one month.

"This gives us a new treatment option for bipolar patients that we know gets us a robust response within four to six weeks," Dr. Sit told HealthDay News. Bipolar disorder is thought to affect nearly 6 million Americans.

Light therapy can sometimes cause mania in people with bipolar disorder, researchers say. In the Northwestern study - in which 46 patients placed a light box with a 7,000 lux bright white light or a 50 lux "placebo" light about a foot from their faces for periods that rose incrementally from 15 minutes to an hour a day - none of the patients experienced the euphoria, lack of focus, irritability, rapid speech, tendency to risk-taking behaviors, or any other symptoms of mania or hypomania.

"As clinicians, we need to find treatments that avoid these side effects and allow for a nice, stable response. Treatment with bright light at midday can provide this," Sit noted in a Northwestern news release.

Sourced from: American Journal of Psychiatry