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This Light Therapy Beats SSRI and Placebo for Depression

depression LIGHT THERAPYInitial steps have been taken to determine if 10,000 lux light therapy can be used as a legitimate way to treat depression – not seasonal depression – but full blown major depressive disorder.

The results of this JAMA study were provocative, to say the least.

• Light therapy beat Prozac.
• Light therapy beat sham light therapy (placebo).
• Prozac did NOT beat placebo.
• A combination of Prozac and light therapy beat sham light therapy and sham Prozac (placebo combination) as well as light therapy alone.

Often used to help with seasonal affective disorder, ultraviolet light is known to help with the production of serotonin, noradrenalin and dopamine.

To test out the efficacy of a light box, 122 people suffering from major depression were asked to both take a pill and sit in front of a light box every morning for eight weeks. These individuals were broken into four different groups.

• One group received an actual antidepressant pill and an actual light box.

• One group received a placebo pill and a real light box.

• One group received an antidepressant pill and a placebo light box.

• The final group received a placebo pill and a placebo light box.

76 percent of those who received a combination of 10,000 lux light therapy and the SSRI improved by 50 percent or more.

50 percent of participants who only received light therapy made similar improvements.

29 percent of the people who took the antidepressant pill alone showed improvements.

59% of those who underwent light therapy went into remission following the study, further pointing toward light box therapy as an effective treatment.

The light therapy boxes used in this study provided 10,000 lux wide spectrum light.

While positive, the researchers plan on continuing their research, noting that patients should never try to self-treat depression, no matter how promising these results may be.


This Light Therapy Beats SSRI and Placebo for Depression

Mike Bundrant

Mike Bundrant is the author of Your Achilles Eel: Discover and Overcome the Hidden Cause of Negative Emotions, Bad Decisions and Self-Sabotage and co-founder at The iNLP Center which offers online certification in Neuro-Linguistic Programming and life coaching.

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APA Reference
Bundrant, M. (2015). This Light Therapy Beats SSRI and Placebo for Depression. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 1, 2020, from


Last updated: 22 Dec 2015
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