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Light Therapy for Seasonal and Nonseasonal Depression: Efficacy, Protocol, Safety, and Side Effects


Bright light therapy for seasonal affective disorder (SAD) has been investigated and applied for over 20 years. Physicians and clinicians are increasingly confident that bright light therapy is a potent, specifically active, nonpharmaceutical treatment modality. Indeed, the domain of light treatment is moving beyond SAD, to nonseasonal depression (unipolar and bipolar), seasonal flare-ups of bulimia nervosa, circadian sleep phase disorders, and more. Light therapy is simple to deliver to outpatients and inpatients alike, although the optimum dosing of light and treatment time of day requires individual adjustment. The side-effect profile is favorable in comparison with medications, although the clinician must remain vigilant about emergent hypomania and autonomic hyperactivation, especially during the first few days of treatment. Importantly, light therapy provides a compatible adjunct to antidepressant medication, which can result in accelerated improvement and fewer residual symptoms.

Corresponding author
Please direct all correspondence to: Michael Terman, PhD, New York State, Psychiatric Institute, 1051 Riverside Drive, Unit 50, New York, NY 10032; Tel: 212-543-5712, Fax 212-543-5184; E-mail:
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CNS Spectrums
  • ISSN: 1092-8529
  • EISSN: 2165-6509
  • URL: /core/journals/cns-spectrums
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