Light therapy for premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD)

There is something truly magnificent about feeling the warmth of the sun on your skin, hence it comes to no surprise that exposure to light has been shown to be incredibly important for improving mood and general well-being.

Light exposure has been extensively studied in relation to reducing depressive symptoms, particularly related to seasonal affective disorders. Light therapy, whether naturally through the sun, or artificially via use of a light box, has been shown to reduce feelings of depression, uplifting mood. As a result of these findings, light therapy has also being examined as a possible intervention for management of the mood symptoms associated with pre-menstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD).

I’ve written about PMDD before but basically it’s that severe type of PMS that approximately 8% of women suffer from that is characterised by severe mood symptoms (e.g. anxiety, paranoia, irritability, flat, hostility depression, to name but a few!). These mood symptoms interfere with day to day living during the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle, but for them to be classified as related to PMDD need to present after ovulation and disappear once menstruations starts. If you want to know more about why PMDD occurs then the simplified version is that its due to a complex interplay occurring between fluctuating levels of hormones, their metabolites e.g. allopregnenalone as well as neurotransmitters including serotonin which tends to decrease in the luteal phase in susceptible women, all of which drives mood symptoms; you can read more about that here:

In terms of how light therapy may be helpful for reducing mood symptoms of PMDD..
During light therapy, an individual sits in front of a box that emits bright light that is meant to mimic natural outdoor light. The light hits the hypothalamus influencing release of hormones as well as neurotransmitters such as serotonin.

When women with PMDD were continuously exposed to bright light therapy in their luteal phase, they experienced a reduction in their PMDD symptoms leading to an improvement in mood particularly depression, it is hypothesised that this is due to increased release of serotonin, which improves mood.

During winter and possibly autumn, if you find your mood and symptoms becoming progressively worse, it might be worth trying some bright light therapy.

Have you tried it? I’d love to know your thoughts.

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