The Invisible Battle: Fighting Depression With Light Therapy
Monday, November 11 is Veteran's Day. In addition to donating 100 HappyLight® Luxe light therapy lamps to Team RWB, we are also donating 10% of our profits on Veterans Day to the organization and the Veterans it supports!
Mental health awareness, and depression in particular, is a subject very important to us at Verilux. We support the military and its veterans and understand that mental health awareness is just as important, if not more so, for them.
In honor of Veteran's Day, and to continue to shed light on depression (let's keep working on breaking down that stigma), here is some useful information!
Depression - The Numbers
Depression is more common that we think, a lot more common.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 7.2% of U.S. adults suffered from at least one major depressive episode in 2018 (that isn't taking into account those who suffer from milder depressive symptoms). On a global scale, depression and anxiety disorders cost $1 trillion annually in lost productivity. That is a high number and military members fare worse than everyone else.
The RAND Center for Military Health Policy Research published a study that showed 18.5% of service members returning from Iraq or Afghanistan currently suffer from PTSD or depression. Additionally, nearly 20% of soldiers report experiencing an incident of TBI during deployment (which also increases the risk of depression). Unfortunately, the number of soldiers seeking help for this conditions is just at half. The numbers don't paint a pretty picture, but there is light (literally) at the end of the tunnel!
Light Therapy & Our Circadian Rhythm
Just in case you weren't familiar with light therapy... It uses intense, full-spectrum light at between 1,000 and 10,000 lux (strange word, but this is how we measure light intensity) to help regulate our Circadian Rhythm.
Our Circadian Rhythm, together with our biological clock (often referred to interchangeably, but in fact, function independently), is important in the regulation of important bodily functions, such as sleep-wake cycles, hormone release, eating habits and digestion, and body temperature. When our Circadian Rhythm is off, we can suffer from all kinds of problems, including depression, sleep disorders, bipolar disorder and obesity!
Bottom line? It's really important that you have a regular Circadian Rhythm (and this is where light therapy comes in!).
Light Therapy & Depression
Bright light therapy has been shown to have significant positive effects on reducing symptoms of both seasonal and non-seasonal depression (in addition to sleep disorders, ADHD, jet leg, and adjusting to shift work).
The American Psychiatric Association currently lists light therapy as a suggested treatment for depression. An interesting study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry examined patients over the course of 3 Canadian winters (you Canadians out there know what that is like) in an 8 week period and compared the effectiveness of 20 mg/day of fluoxetine vs. 30’/day of light therapy at 10,000 lux.
Those exposed to light therapy showed a quicker reduction of symptoms within the first week, but then stabilized. By the end of the study, results for both groups were similar. An interesting conclusion from this study is, of course, that light therapy is an effective treatment for seasonal and non-seasonal depression and can be a preferred alternative to pharmaceutical options.
If you think you may be suffering from depression, your first step is to see a licensed health professional. However, if you are diagnosed with depression, light therapy can be a great (healthy and natural) option for you!
Reducing the Stigma
Depression and the coinciding medication or non-pharmaceutical treatment carries with it a stigma. While light therapy is a healthy, natural solution to improving depressive symptoms, it is a very visible treatment option. Instead of experiencing shame or hiding your light therapy, this can be an opportunity to start a dialogue.
Also in Light Reading
I didn’t realize my mood was effected as the days got darker - it was my husband Scott who mentioned Winter Blues to me. At first, I was insulted that he thought I was that bad and then denial totally kicked in, thinking you’re insane that’s not me. I didn’t realize how much my mood would shift and the miserable mama I would be. Once he mentioned it to me, I started paying closer attention and doing some research and I realized he was right.
Light is essential - we need it to live, and yet, many of us don’t get the amount of daylight we need to function well. Light deprivation typically indicates a situation in which a person is completely deprived of any daylight. However, while many in modern society do experience decreased exposure to daylight, it isn’t absolute - we call this relative daylight deprivation.