Can Darkness Reduce Symptoms of Mania?


In a new blog for Psychiatric Times, psychiatrist James Phelps calls for the use of “zero-risk” amber lenses for the treatment of patients experiencing manic symptoms associated with bipolar disorder. “The data are in,” Phelps writes, “time to move dark therapy into regular practice.”

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amber sunglasses

Over twenty years ago the NIMH published a case report detailing a patient who successfully used darkness as a mood stabilizer, but in 2001 new research made it clear that complete darkness might not be necessary. Blue light, in particular, appears to have the greatest impact on sleep cycles, and eliminating this light, using low-cost amber-colored glasses, for instance, has been shown to improve sleep quality.

In a new study out of Norway, published in the journal Bipolar Disorders, researchers conducted a small-scale randomized control trial to determine the effectiveness of amber glasses on the manic symptoms of patients diagnosed with bipolar mania.  In the intervention group, patients wore amber glasses during daytime for seven days while receiving treatment as usual. The study found a significantly larger reduction in mania symptoms in the group wearing amber glasses compared to the control group.



Henriksen, T.E., Skrede, S., Fasmer, O.B., Schoeyen, H., Leskauskaite, I., Bjørke‐Bertheussen, J., Assmus, J., Hamre, B., Grønli, J. and Lund, A., 2016. Blue‐blocking glasses as additive treatment for mania: a randomized placebo‐controlled trial. Bipolar disorders, 18(3), pp.221-232. (Abstract)

James Phelps, MD. 2016. “New Zero-Risk Treatment For Mania: Page 2 Of 2 | Psychiatric Times”.Psychiatrictimes.Com. Accessed August 12 2016.

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Justin Karter
MIA Research News Editor: Justin M. Karter is the lead research news editor for Mad in America. He completed his doctorate in Counseling Psychology at the University of Massachusetts Boston. He also holds graduate degrees in both Journalism and Community Psychology from Point Park University. He brings a particular interest in examining and decoding cultural narratives of mental health and reimagining the institutions built on these assumptions.


    • No doubt! The psychiatric mantra is always “we need more money.”

      I found exercise is good for mania, biking, rowing, dancing, gardening. Keeping busy with productive endeavors is good for mania – I rehabbed my house like a fiend while suffering from drug withdrawal induced super sensitivity mania. Being locked up in a windowless hospital and massively tranquilized / “snowed” is the opposite of helpful, however. But those doctors did defraud my health insurance company out of $30,000 for their torture. And one was later arrested by the FBI for having lots of patients medically unnecessarily shipped long distances to himself, “snowing,” and performing unneeded tracheotomies on lots and lots of people. It’s all about the money.

      For profit medicine does not work, it just causes doctors to become criminals.

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    • “Hey, no one could possibly make massive profits from this kind of cheap intervention. It has to be stopped!!”

      Do you also want to put an end to light therapy for recurring seasonal depression? Why not just leave it to science to determine whether these glasses help bipolar people. When I say “science,” I mean real science, knowledge for the sake of knowledge, not industry science that serves industry interests. I know that real, honest science is hard to come by these days, if it exists at all, but that needs to be the goal. The amber blue-light blocking glasses actually do have a number of validated health benefits; e.g., when worn in the latter part of the day, they block blue light, promoting the natural build of melatonin to help people with sleep issues ….something of particular interest to anyone trying to withdraw from psych drugs..

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