Light therapy for bipolar disorder: A case series in women

Dorothy Sit*, Katherine L. Wisner, Barbara H. Hanusa, Stacy Stull, Michael Terman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

106 Scopus citations


Objective: To perform a dose-ranging safety and efficacy study of bright light therapy for depression in women with bipolar disorder (BD). Methods: Nine women with DSM-IV BD I or II in the depressed phase were exposed to 50lux (illuminance at the receiving surface) red light for twoweeks, after which they received 7,000 lux light therapy for two-week epochs of 15, 30 and 45min daily. The Structured Interview Guide for the Hamilton Depression Rating Scale with Atypical Depression Supplement and the Mania Rating Scale were used to assess mood symptoms. Four patients received morning light and five patients received midday light. Results: Three of the four subjects treated with morning light developed mixed states. The fourth subject achieved a full, sustained response. To decrease the risk of inducing mixed episodes, we changed the time of light exposure to midday. Of the five women who received midday light therapy, two achieved full response and two showed early improvement but required a dose increase to sustain response. One woman remained depressed with 45min of midday light but responded fully to a switch to morning light, 30 min daily. Conclusion: Women with bipolar illness are highly sensitive to morning bright light treatment; the induction of mixed states is a substantial risk. Initiating treatment with a brief duration (15min) of midday light for bipolar depression is advisable.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)918-927
Number of pages10
JournalBipolar Disorders
Issue number8
StatePublished - Dec 1 2007


  • Bipolar disorder
  • Depression
  • Light therapy
  • Mania
  • Mixed state

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry


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