Light boxes are sold as a treatment for seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and seasonal mood swings. The claims listed are:

  • Helps to ease seasonal mood swings and winter depression, and help improve sleeping patterns
  • Can ease symptoms of SAD within one to two weeks of regular use

See also A Portable Glow to Help Melt Those Winter Blues from the New York Times.

I've recently moved north where the days are much shorter than I'm used to in the winter, and I've found it a little oppressive. Is there any reason to think that using a one of these light boxes on short gray days will improve my mood?

  • 4
    Just to clarify, are you refering to a light box that is used for seasonal affective disorder? – rjzii Jan 11 '13 at 18:02
  • Yes, sorry. I'm still too much of a neophyte to know if these terms are interchangeable or if sun lamps are only for tanning beds (and I certainly do not suspect that tanning might make me feel better). – AppliedSide Jan 11 '13 at 18:09
  • As far as I know the terms aren't interchangeable or least within the medical fields they aren't used interchangeably. "Sun lamps" are pretty generic in terms of meaning and a quick search showed that they can apply to a broad spectrum of applications. – rjzii Jan 11 '13 at 18:22
  • I'll modify my question to reflect this then. Thanks! – AppliedSide Jan 11 '13 at 18:32
  • 1
    @Oddthinking done. – Sam I Am Jan 12 '13 at 19:40

Yes, light therapy does appear to be an effective treatment for Seasonal Affective Disorder.

A study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry compared light therapy to fluoxetine (an SSRI antidepressant) in a double-blind trial. Each participant was given either a dim placebo light and the fluoxetine or a placebo pill and the actual (bright) therapy light. The study found that each was about as effective, though the light had a significantly greater effect in the first week of the trial.

Another study published in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology compared light therapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy, and a combination of the two against an untreated control. Both light therapy and CBT were found to be effective and the combination therapy was found to be far more effective than either alone.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .