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How light affects bipolar disorder patients?

Light therapy, consisting of each day exposure to vivid, artificial light, is already an identified line of treatment for people tormented by seasonal and non-seasonal depressive disorder. But much less is known about the potential blessings of light therapy for people with bipolar disorder, one of the main reasons of incapacity worldwide.

In a meta-evaluation recently posted in The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, Dr. Raymond Lam — a professor inside the department of psychiatry, director of the Mood Disorders Centre at the Djavad Mowafaghian Centre for Brain Health, and studies scientist at the Vancouver Coastal Health Research Institute — took a closer look to observe the growing frame of research in this area. Lam and his colleagues determined that, when it comes to reducing bipolar disorder symptoms, light therapy holds promise.

What Is Bipolar Disorder?

Bipolar disorder is a brain disorder characterized by episodes of mood swings ranging from depressive lows to manic highs. People with bipolar 1 disorder and bipolar 2 disorder spend a maximum of their time on the depressive edge of the spectrum, experiencing low energy, anxiety, and disinterest in regular activities. These signs and symptoms mimic those experienced by people stricken by scientific depression, which has been shown to improve with bright light therapy.

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What effect does light therapy have on people with bipolar disorder?

Almost even published trials of light therapy as compared to a placebo in humans with bipolar depression determines statistically blended effects of the studies. Overall, there was an extensive improvement in depressive signs and symptoms with light therapy as compared to placebo situations.

These studies also determined that shiny light was properly tolerated inside the studies, with few human beings having to forestall the treatment and look for facet-outcomes or other reasons. Importantly, the light therapy did no longer motivate a switch from depression to mania, as can occur with antidepressants in human beings with bipolar disorder.

How does light therapy work?

We don’t recognize precisely how light therapy works for seasonal and nonseasonal depression and whether it miles the same mechanism for bipolar disorder. We realize that light acts via the eyes to adjust the biological clock in a tiny area of the brain, known as the suprachiasmatic nucleus. We also recognize that there are disturbances within the organic clock that affect circadian (daily) rhythms in people with bipolar disorder, together with hormonal rhythms, sleep, cognition, and different behaviors. However, we don’t recognize if regulating circadian rhythms is why light therapy works as an antidepressant.

Other research has proven that light can affect the primary neurotransmitters, chemical messengers, and mood disturbance and behavior, together with serotonin and dopamine. So, light therapy may go in addition to antidepressants without delay appearing on those neurotransmitters.

Why is it vital to know how light therapy influences people with bipolar disorder?

There are fewer available remedies for bipolar disorder than other types of disorders, so it’s far more critical to locate new effective remedies. Antidepressant medications are not, in reality, powerful, and they may worsen mood cycles in human beings with bipolar disorder. Also, many people with bipolar disorder are required to take other medicines inclusive of mood stabilizers. That’s why it is essential to decide if a non-medication therapy, like light therapy, is powerful and can be used without stressful approximate drug interactions.

What’s next?

Although the subtle effects of light therapy have been discovered, these studies also determine the limitations of light therapy. For example, only a small number of people were studied. There are several different types and doses of light therapy used. The follow-up periods had been concise, and most people with bipolar disorder had been taking other medicinal drugs for bipolar disorder.

That’s why moving forward, we need more studies with larger samples of patients to conclusively show that therapy is effective for bipolar depression. The optimal situations for light therapy, what wavelength of light works best, how vivid the light should be, and how long patients must use light therapy should also be decided.

Since bipolar disorder is a persistent condition, it is also necessary to understand how light therapy must be used for maintenance treatment to prevent potential depressive episodes.

Light therapy for people with Bipolar disorder: Systematic evaluation and Meta-evaluation of Randomized controlled Trials


Bipolar disorder (BD) is hard to deal with, and fewer remedies are available for depressive episodes in comparison to mania. Light therapy is a proof-based, totally no pharmacological treatment for seasonal and nonseasonal predominant depression. However, not much research has examined its efficacy for patients with bipolar disorder. Subsequently, the proof for light adjunctive therapy as a treatment for bipolar depression has been reviewed.


A scientific assessment of databases from inception to June 30, 2019, for randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trials of light therapy in patients with bipolar disorder was carried out. The initial results become a change in clinician-rated depressive symptom score; secondary outcomes included clinical response, remission, acceptability, and therapy-emergent mood switches. The studies quantitatively pooled findings with the use of meta-evaluation with random-effects fashions.


The researchers recognized seven trials representing 259 people with bipolar disorder. Light therapy became associated with extensive development in the Hamilton depression rating scale (HDRS). There was also a tremendous difference in favor of light therapy for a medical reaction; however, not for remission. There was no distinction in affective switches among lively light and manipulative situations. Take a look at boundaries protected by a kind of light therapy parameters, small sample sizes, short therapy intervals, and variable best throughout trials.


There may be useful but no conclusive proof that light adjunctive therapy reduces the signs and symptoms of bipolar disorder and increases clinical reaction. The light therapy is nicely tolerated with no increased chance of affective mood shifts.


Image credits: Getty Images

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