eating disorder

Alternative treatments for managing eating disorders

As conditions such as eating disorders and depression may in some cases be identified as very complex to treat, a variety of combinations in terms of treatment approaches may be effective in helping to support those affected to both achieve and maintain recovery.

Commonly used approaches to treating eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia include cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), interpersonal therapy (IPT), dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT) and particularly where the patient is of a younger age, family therapy. While most forms of depression will typically respond to a combination of therapy and medication such as antidepressants or anti-psychotics treatment for seasonal affective disorder (SAD) will usually involve light therapy.

What is Light Therapy?

Light therapy, often known as phototherapy, involves the patient sitting close to a light-box for around two hours each day. The light box provides the individual with full-spectrum, high intensity light usually emitting around 10,000 lux, which refers to the measurement of intensity of light.

A light box may vary hugely in terms of size and small, portable forms may be used for on one’s desk at work while larger forms may be used within the home such as in one’s lounge. Some light boxes may also be specially programmed to simulate sunrise and gradually make the room get lighter over a set period of time.

Light Therapy and Seasonal Affective Disorder

Those suffering from seasonal affective disorder, commonly referred to as SAD, will usually have symptoms of depression at specific times of the year. The most common times where SAD sufferers notice depression coming on is around late autumn and then sufferers will usually report their symptoms as reducing in the spring.

As it is the lack of full-spectrum daylight that is the factor underlying SAD, a light box may provide simple yet effective relief. In some cases antidepressants may be recommended in addition to using the light box.

Light Therapy and Eating Disorders Treatment

In recent years, light therapy has been used to help those affected by the eating disorder bulimia nervosa. This is specifically helpful when those suffering from the condition have recognised that symptoms are worse during the winter months, similar to those affected with seasonal affective disorder.

In bulimia, patients may benefit from the antidepressant quality of receiving daily amounts of full spectrum daylight as this is believed to act in a similar way to the manner in which antidepressant medication increases serotonin functioning in the brain.

As highlighted above, light therapy has been clearly recognised as effective in treating most cases of SAD. However, more research is required to understand the potential benefits for those affected by certain forms of eating disorders.