Monday, April 15th, 2024
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Lightbox Therapy for the Winter Months

Lightbox therapy is one way to combat Seasonal Affective Disorder.

The start of a new semester, adjusting after the holiday season, colder weather and shorter days are all contributing factors to why some students find this time of year to be more difficult than others. The Counseling Center at Millersville University offers a wide range of services to help its students through difficulties, including the use of lightbox therapy.

Lightbox therapy is one way to combat Seasonal Affective Disorder, a type of depression that comes and goes with the winter months. Dr. Lisa House, psychologist and professor at the University, is the director of the lightbox therapy program. She explains that while major depressive disorder is felt year-round, the symptoms of SAD can begin in the fall months and are resolved around spring or summer.

The lightboxes are used to mimic sunlight, which can help boost a student’s mood while they read or complete their schoolwork. “Light therapy is a common treatment for seasonal affective disorder, regularizing the patient’s circadian rhythm and balancing melatonin and serotonin,” House explains. “When melatonin and serotonin levels are unbalanced, they can negatively impact sleep behaviors and mood.”

House adds, “One benefit of light therapy is that it’s quick-acting and symptoms improve significantly after two weeks. In addition, it’s cost-effective, which benefits colleges as mental health resource demand is increasing. It is also a natural approach and research has found it to be as effective as medication.”

While the “winter blues” is something that many students might feel they struggle with, they may not know they can use the resources at the Counseling Center to counteract those feelings.

“SAD can profoundly impact an individual’s ability to perform simple daily tasks and often leads to low motivation, impaired concentration, fatigue, irritability, sleep difficulties, sadness and apathy,” explains House. “This can impact academics and students often find themselves less energetic, less motivated and not able to concentrate. Work piles up and students are very overwhelmed. Difficulty waking, low energy, low concentration, anxiety, weight gain and decreased socializing are other symptoms that can interfere with functioning.”

House explains that students should pay close attention if they notice these traits in themselves. Additionally, if students feel sadness or hopelessness, have angry outbursts, irritability, loss of interest or pleasure in most normal daily activities, sleep changes, appetite changes, feel worthless and have unexplained physical problems, such as back pain or headaches, aches, nearly every day, they should go to a doctor for assessment.

Students interested in the lightbox services can call the Counseling Center at 717-871-7821, or they can email Dr. House with any questions they may have.

The Center also offers individual counseling sessions to all students at Millersville University, virtually and in person. They can also provide recommendations for personal lightboxes for students who benefit from the service and would like to use it more frequently.

For more information about counseling services at Millersville University, click here.

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