Bright light therapy for bipolar disorder

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  1. Bright light therapy study by S Kutcher and G Papatheodorou
  2. Study by Dorothy Sit M.D and her research team

Bright light therapy study by S Kutcher and G Papatheodorou


There is evidence that bright light therapy can ease bipolar symptoms. There have been several studies done.

I'll write about two of those here, starting with the study done in 1995 by S Kutcher and G Papatheodorou of the Division of Adolescent Psychiatry, Sunnybrook Health Science Centre, University of Toronto Clinic, Ontario, Canada.

Seven people aged 16 to 22 years with bipolar depression were treated with bright light therapy twice a day, they were first evaluated using the BDI (Beck Depression Inventory) and symptoms check list.

Two patients had a no response to mild score. Two patients had a decrease ranging from 40% to 74 and three patients showed a decrease of over 70% in their baseline score.

Study by Dorothy Sit M.D and her research team


Nine women with bipolar disorder were studied by Researchers from the University Of Pittsburgh School Of Medicine's Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic.

They examined the effects of light therapy at midday and in the morning on mood symptoms. The women were each given a light box and given instructions about how to use them.

The light boxes were used for two weeks on a daily basis in stretches of 45, 30 and 15 minutes.

Some patients responded very well to light therapy and their depression symptoms disappeared. They stayed on bright light therapy for a further 3 or 4 months.

Five patients used their light box at midday and 4 patients received morning light. They all carried on taking their prescribed medications during the entire study period.

Three women who received the morning light developed a mixed state initially, which means mania and symptoms of depression occur all at once. The group that started with the midday light box therapy had a more stable response.

The morning light received a final adjustment and a few more patients responded more fully. Dorothy Sit M.D., assistant professor of psychiatry and the study's first author said

"People with bipolar disorder are exquisitely sensitive to morning light, so this profound effect of morning treatment leading to mixed states is very informative and forces us to ask more questions"

"Did we introduce light too early and disrupt circadian rhythms and sleep patterns?"

People who have bipolar disorder are sensitive to seasonal changes and changes in outdoor ambient light.

Dr sit wrote.

"In our study, 44 percent of patients were full responders, and 22 percent were partial responders."

"Light therapy, therefore, is an attractive and possibly effective augmentation strategy to improve the likelihood of full-treatment response."

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