In addition to being key in the prevention of seasonal affective disorder, regular exposure to bright light, particularly fluorescent lights, significantly improves depression in people with this disorder. Phototherapy is commercially available in the form of light boxes, which are used for approximately 30 minutes every day. The light required must be of sufficient brightness, approximately 25 times brighter than a normal living room light. Contrary to prior theories, the light does not need to be actual daylight from the sun. It’s quantity, not quality, of light that matters in light therapy treatment. Phototherapy should not be confused with the use of tanning beds or booths. While the UVA and UVB lights used for tanning can provide a certain level of relief from the effects of SAD, the inherent dangers, such as skin cancer and premature aging of the skin, far outweigh any possible benefit.
Psychotherapy as well as antidepressant medication prescribed under a doctor’s supervision, have been found to be an effective treatment for SAD. Individuals who suffer from seasonal affective disorder also benefit from the increased social support and understanding of friends and family during their more vulnerable times of the year.