Magazine article Clinical Psychiatry News

Phototherapy for Depression Sheds Little Light. (Postpartum Depression Study of 18 Women)

Magazine article Clinical Psychiatry News

Phototherapy for Depression Sheds Little Light. (Postpartum Depression Study of 18 Women)

Article excerpt

YOKOHAMA, JAPAN -- The first randomized trial of bright white light therapy for postpartum depression found that it helped, but was no better than red light placebo, Dr. Maria Corral said at the 12th World Congress of Psychiatry.

Postpartum depression improved in all 18 women randomized to 8 weeks of daily half-hour sessions sitting in front of a light box. The depression lifted regardless of whether the boxes emitted 10,000 W of bright white light or 600 W of filtered red light, said Dr. Corral of the University of British Columbia, Vancouver.

Weekly scores on a modified Hamilton Depression Scale called the SIGH-SAD improved with treatment by an average of 40%. One-third of patients showed a 50% improvement, which would be considered a good clinical response in most trials of medications, she noted. Two patients had complete remission of depression. The study included only patients with mild to moderate depression that started post partum.

Women with high scores on the Seasonal Pattern Assessment Questionnaire at the start of the study showed the greatest improvements--an average 56% reduction in depression scores, compared with a 30% reduction in women whose scores suggested that they were less affected by seasonal changes.

Bright white light therapy introduced in the 1980s to treat seasonal affective disorder, also has been used to treat premenstrual syndrome, bulimia, circadian rhythm disturbances, and nonseasonal depression, so investigators had hoped it might help with postpartum depression.

The fact that red light worked as well could mean that red light is biologically active, or that the gains could be due to placebo effects, Dr. Corral said at the meeting sponsored by the World Psychiatry Association.

The results also might be ascribed to having 30 minutes of quiet time in front of the light box each morning, free of other responsibilities. …

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