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Book Forum: MOOD DISORDERS   |    
Seasonal Affective Disorder and Beyond: Light Treatment for SAD and Non-SAD Conditions
Am J Psychiatry 2000;157:658-658. doi:10.1176/appi.ajp.157.4.658
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Iowa City, Iowa

Edited by Raymond W. Lam, M.D. Washington, D.C.American Psychiatric Press, 1998, 327 pp., $45.00.

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Light is not patentable, and its use as therapy will always be undermarketed relative to pharmaceutical options. Industry will not send representatives to the field to inform physicians of the latest developments in light therapy, nor will it sponsor symposia or run advertisements in professional journals. Consequently, clinicians are unlikely to stay abreast of what is, as this book shows, rapidly accumulating evidence that phototherapy has value for a variety of disorders. Because of this, the book serves a more important role than its psychopharmacological counterparts.

This is an edited volume and, as such, is prone to certain strengths and weaknesses. Among the former is the array of contributors. All are prominent in the field, and all bring substantial research experience to their topics. These topics are, in turn, well balanced. Three chapters concern the physics and physiology thought to underlie the benefits of light; the remainder review the empirical evidence for efficacy in specific disorders. There is some redundancy in all of this but probably less than in most edited books. As is also true of most edited books, the coverage of the literature is less timely than that of journal articles generally. Some chapters here have no references beyond 1995, although several bring the reader into 1997.

Most clinicians associate light treatment only with seasonal affective disorder and would be surprised by the evidence provided here that it also benefits bulimia nervosa, sleep maintenance insomnia, and nonseasonal major depressive disorder. The last of these is of particular interest given the number of positive studies described so far. Eminently researchable questions remain. What subgroups of major depressive disorder derive the most benefit from light treatment and how might it best be used in conjunction with antidepressants, thymoleptics, or sleep deprivation? Clinicians should stay tuned. In the meantime, this book offers a practical resource for a broad audience.




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