Some new research has just been published comparing light therapy (LT) and cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) as treatments for SAD. A group at the University of Vermont looked at the effects of the two therapies over three consecutive winters and found that patients who received CBT were less likely to suffer with SAD in the long-term.
This study, with two quite different approaches to treatment, is a reminder that there isn’t a ‘one size fits all’ SAD treatment kit - it's very much down to personal preference and finding out what works for you.
Whether it’s CBT, light therapy, antidepressants, exercise or a combination of things, if you’re exploring ways to combat your SAD, here are some things you should think about.
Convenience: In the study, the CBT patients attended 12 group therapy sessions each lasting 90 minutes. Those using a lightbox were recommended to sit in front of it for 30 minutes every morning e.g. whilst checking emails, eating breakfast. These are typical schedules - you often have 'homework' between CBT sessions as well and some lightboxes need to be used longer - so be aware of what's involved. The last thing you need is for your treatment to feel like an effort.
There are a variety of SAD lights designed for use at home or at work and you don’t need to get your light therapy fix all in one go; 15 minutes here, 15 minutes there works just as well. Whatever you choose, make sure it’s something that fits with your lifestyle - that way you’re more likely to stick with it.
Cost: Unfortunately, most SAD treatments aren’t available on the NHS. Prescriptions, SAD lights, CBT courses (£250 and up) and sunny winter holidays don’t grow on trees and since SAD can persist for many years it might be worth factoring in ongoing costs. On the plus side, you can get outside and make the most of any winter sun for free!
Lumie lightboxes start from £99.95, Bodyclock wake-up lights from £59.95 and we sometimes have refurbished products available at bargain prices. You can also ask about paying in instalments. Running costs are next to nothing (less than 1p an hour) and we stock replacement bulbs and accessories to keep you and your SAD light bright for years to come.
Results: The Vermont research group have done lots of trials with CBT and LT and have found them to be equally effective for treating SAD. Most people will know if light therapy works for them within a week or so – we give you a 45-day trial just to make sure. Effects aren’t permanent though so you’ll need to keep using your light to keep SAD at bay. Learning CBT can take between 6 and 20 sessions so you won’t see results quickly but once you’ve got the hang of it, it’s something you can put into practice at any time. Some people with SAD swear by antidepressants but it can take a while to find a drug and dosage that suits you and then a few weeks before they start to take effect.
If you’re starting a new SAD therapy, or about to tinker with your current one, it’s a good idea to make a few notes each day about how tired you felt, your mood, energy levels etc. It will make it much easier to figure out if light therapy or new dose of tablets really has made a difference.
If you’ve decided to give light therapy a go but aren’t sure which product to get call the Lumie Careline on 01954 780500 for advice or use Choosing the right light to narrow it down.