Light Box Therapy for depression?

Discussion in 'General Parenting' started by gcvmom, Dec 2, 2008.

  1. gcvmom

    gcvmom Here we go again!

    difficult child 2 seems to be falling into an emotional pattern relative to the time of year. Last Fall around mid-November he became more emotional and hypersensitive to criticism, and lately he seems to be going through some of the same things. He says he feels like things annoy him more, and he's been getting his feelings hurt easily and been more teary lately.

    I've heard about the negative mood issues being a common response in some people with their exposure (or lack of) to sunlight.

    Has anyone here used one of those "light boxes" to help counteract the effects of the shorter days on someone with a mood disorder?

    Where is a reputable place to buy one? Did your insurance cover it?
  2. klmno

    klmno Active Member

    Here's what I hear- both from a couple of posts on this board and from psychiatrist- 1) they can be helpful but they can be costly 2) when a person has mood cycling instead of unipolar depression or strictly the seasonal affective disorder (I think that's what it's called), it can possibly induce mania 3) it's hard to get kids to use it as it's recommended- which apparently is to get them awake early and sit in front of this light for an hour before going to school or something like that.

    If you find more positive news about this, I'd love to hear it. My son gets this depression every fall and has mania in late winter/early spring and is relatively stable (at least manageable) in between those periods. I would LOVE to find a solution to even a small part of this!!
  3. smallworld

    smallworld Moderator

    We're fighting some of the same issues with my son. But we're addressing it psychopharmacologically by dropping Zonegran (made him feel flat) and considering adding Wellbutrin (yikes -- an AD!). Have you considered adding Lamictal?

    We have no experience with light boxes, but I know many families on the CABF message boards and online support groups use them with success.

    Good luck with whatever you decide.
  4. gcvmom

    gcvmom Here we go again!

    Thanks for the feedback klmno & SW. I had heard they are pricey, too. I think I could get him to sit in front of it without too much trouble. The question is will it work or will it activate him as you suggest is possible.

    He was on Lamictal for a while. In fact, that's what we added last Fall. But because of a series of other problems, not directly related to Lamictal, he ended up coming off it.

    Do Seroquel XR and Lamictal complement eachother for this kind of problem I wonder?

    I think I'll be giving psychiatrist another update this week and ask for feedback from him on this.
  5. smallworld

    smallworld Moderator

    The Seroquel/Lamictal combo is widely used to treat mood disorders with anxiety and depression at the core.
  6. klmno

    klmno Active Member

    To add to SW's info- I am under the impression that lamictol works well as a first line MS when depression is the biggest concern, but lithium works better when it's not. Not to get off topic, but in the situations where we see clear seasonal patterns in our kids, I have often wondered why we aren't using a different medication combo in the fall than in the spring, or at whatever time period our difficult child exhibits a certain extreme.

    PS We are just starting the add-on of an AD to the MS's. So far, so good. But, as SW already knows, this might change with my son's recent discovery of being physically ill- moreso than I thought. Anyway, I'm hearing about adding a AD to MS more and more and am starting to get a little more comfortable with it.
  7. gcvmom

    gcvmom Here we go again!

    Okay, well that's good to know!

    I think with regard to adding an AD, as long as you've acheived some level of stability with the MS it's generally safe to add for someone with BiPolar (BP). It's when you START with the AD that you can run into bigger problems. difficult child 2 was given Zoloft in the first grade before we knew what was going on with him and it made him manic (at the time I just thought his ADHD medication had stopped working).

    Well, I know what to do now. I'm going to watch him for another few days and then call so I can see if these were just a few "off" days or if this really is a pattern (and I think it is). I saved husband's Lamictal that he's just weaned off, so at least I'll have some on hand if the psychiatrist says difficult child 2 needs to go back on it!

    Thanks, ladies! :D
  8. pepperidge

    pepperidge New Member

    Smallworld and others,

    for whats its worth, we never saw any of the activation on Wellbutrin that we did on the SSRI type antidepressants. Also didn't work on depression or attention in my kids. Didn't work either for my husband.

    so maybe it will not activate your kids! hope so.

  9. Ilovemyson

    Ilovemyson Guest

    This is something that I go through every time the time change occurs. When we "fall back" it sets something off inside my head and I start in a downward spiral but when we "spring ahead" it is like my brain goes back to normal. It has taken me a few years to realize this, but I have issues dealing with things during this particular time of year. I depise it. I actually noticed it myself this year and when someone asked me what was wrong, I knew that it had happened again.

    AD's work for a little while for me, then I start to see/feel side effects that I do not like. I actually looked into the light box, but it was close to $1000 and that was 2 years ago. My doctor tried to fight and get insurance to cover it, but it was a failed effort. The only other thing that I was told to try was the new light bulbs (the coil ones) and I have noticed that they do help to a point.

    Seasonal Affective Disorder is something that my doctor said they do not like to diagnose because there is not alot of research on it. Could be that my doctor does not want to do that diagnosis?

    I wish I could help more, but if you do find info out about the light box, PLEASE let me know!!!
  10. smallworld

    smallworld Moderator

    Klmno, some parents of kids with BiPolar (BP) increase Lamictal in the fall and decrease it in the spring to account for seasonal differences in mood. Or they add an AD in the fall and lower or discontinue it in the spring.

    Pepperidge, thanks for the info on Wellbutrin. It's practically the only medication we haven't tried so we may as well give it a whirl.

    Ilovemyson, I've never heard of SAD not being diagnosed. Maybe you need to get a second opinion from another psychiatrist?

    FWIW, my daughter can handle an AD (Lexapro) with an MS on board. But my son has become manic on every AD he's ever tried, even with an MS on board. It really does depend on the customer.
  11. Pam R

    Pam R New Member

    I've used a light box since 1995. I was diagnosis'd with atypical SADS.

    They work if used properly. It is imperative to get one with sufficient lumens and the correct spectrum. It must be used before 9 AM, for the correct amount of time, and one must sit close enough to it and have the light strike the eyes.

    I have a Sunbox Jr. When it failed, I returned it and they reconditioned it and sent new bulbs for free, within 2 weeks. BUT one must replace the bulb not less than every 2 years, even if they appear to be working, as they lose intensity. Bulbs are around $50.

    My Sunbox, which was state of the art at the time, cost me $200 in '95. Here's their website:

    In my opinion, buying a cheaper box is a waste of time or money. While some people get minor results with a 1/2 hr walk at noon, one must have consistently sunny days for this. Not in New England!!

    Others claim using wide spectrum light bulbs in their fixtures helps. I use wide spectrum in my most used lamps, but would never depend on them.

    Good results come from consistent, correct use. Also by starting the lights just as the light starts to diminish, the end of Sept. I found I had to start in mid August. But then I have atypical SADS. Starting now is better than nothing, but be aware you might not see results for 6 weeks.

    Personally, I prefer taking action that I can control. Being in control of my mood and behavior. By changing my food and doing the light, I can control it. Being given medications takes all control from one. It sends the message you can not control your behavior.

    I've used the food program for my son, with good results. It's helped him in many areas of his life. It's no just about food, but about quality of life and being able to manage your behavior and learning to know what you need and how to get it.

    Anyways, I'd try lights before medications. Just my preference.

    Pam R.
  12. gcvmom

    gcvmom Here we go again!

    Thank you, Pam. I'll check out that site.

    Although we live in SoCal, difficult child 2's classroom has NO WINDOWS (well, technically one window, but it's covered by miniblinds and bars). And he's only outside at school for 20 minutes around 10:30am and 45 minutes at 12:30pm. After school the light is already low in the sky and he comes inside for homework. So it just seems that his lack of exposure has to be contributing to his mental state. Especially since I saw this last year, too.