By PAIGE FLANAGAN
December 21 is technically the first day of winter. But who needs technicalities when it’s often cold, dark and dreary before the official day?
Whether winter brings about a happy time or a sad time, moods can change in the frost season. Some people may get sadder with more than the average winter blues. This might be caused by seasonal affective disorder.
Less sunlight may spur seasonal affective disorder — and even other various mood changes — according to the American Psychological Association. So the only solution is to take a five-month vacation to Florida or Jamaica, right? Wrong.
“Phototherapy – also known as light or light box therapy – is using a light box or full spectrum light as a type of therapy in treating SAD or other issues,” said Jenna Behrens, president of Behrens Psychotherapy Services, LLC.
“People use light boxes differently but typically the person will sit so the light is on them for up to 30 minutes, two times a day,” Behrens said. “Some people increase their time under the light as their SAD symptoms increase.”
Although phototherapy treats many cases of seasonal affective disorder, it is not the only ailment improved with light exposure. Behrens said sleep disorders and cases of jaundice are also treated with phototherapy.
“Anyone could use phototherapy but typically people who suffer from SAD or symptoms of [SAD] do,” Behrens said. “People who live in areas that have long periods of little or no sun are good candidates.”
Is phototherapy like tanning in a tanning bed?
Tanning beds may give the “feel of the Florida sun.” It may also provide the warmth of Florida, however, it does not provide the same effects as phototherapy.
What are the facts?
Phototherapy lights used for SAD do not contain ultraviolet lighting like tanning beds.
Light therapy kits are available at stores like Target. The bulbs of specific light therapy lamps are florescent bulbs, not ultraviolet 45.0 watt bulbs.
Light boxes can be all different sizes and can be purchased online.
Phototherapy also enhances the eyes functioning. This is called syntonic phototherapy. For example, vision therapy works with syntonic phototherapy to help ocular functioning.
Elyse Walton, a sophomore fashion student at Mount Mary University, underwent syntonic phototherapy and vision therapy because her eyes were not functioning correctly. Walton’s eyes did not aid one another.
“Vision therapy helps you use train your eyes to work together, like how your legs work together when you’re walking,” Walton said.
For Walton, syntonic therapy preceeded vision therapy.
“I sat in a dark room with no windows and looked at a light that was a specific color,” Walton said.
The specific colors influenced the reflection on her eyes, which, in turn, helped shape her eyes in the desired way.
“It hurt in the beginning but not in the end,” Walton said.
Prior to syntonic phototherapy Walton wore glasses, but she now sees clearly without glasses.
Jenna Behrens, MA, LPC, President, Licensed Professional Counselor