Depression is the leading cause of disability in the world and affects 16 million people in the United States annually. It is a serious mental health issue that impacts a person’s mood, self-image, personality and relationships. Even though is it so widespread, depression still is not fully understood.
While the tendency is to try to cheer someone up who is sad, those with depression will not respond to sheer positivity. Depression is not about making a person happier, but getting to the root of the illness which originates in the brain. As a result, it becomes necessary to incorporate psychiatric help to combat this illness. This in and of itself is not always easy, as finding the right treatment or combination of treatments can take time.
Having an understanding of what treatment options are available can be very empowering when it comes to helping to take control of a person’s health. Below is a comparison of information about important pros and cons to those treatments available for depression.
The brain contains chemicals called neurotransmitters that impact mood and emotion. For someone who suffers from depression, imbalances in these chemicals are common and contribute to the illness. What antidepressant medications do is help to level off any of these imbalances and bring improvements to mood and reduce anxiety.
There are numerous advantages to using medication to treat depression. Many of the medications available are FDA approved and have been scientifically proven to be an effective treatment. They also offer flexibility to be used with other treatment methods and are non-addictive.
Even though medication has been proven effective, it does not always work for everyone. It can take a long time before any improvements are seen and figuring out which medication is best can be frustrating. Many people also sway away from these medications due to negative side effects such as nausea, low libido and stomach issues.
Talk Therapy (Psychotherapy)
For many who suffer from depression, negative thought patterns can be just as detrimental as imbalances in brain chemicals. Talk therapy can provide patients with the tools they need to identify these patterns and overcome them. This type of treatment is also prescribed in conjunction with medication.
Talk therapy helps patients to develop coping mechanisms to assist them deal with their depression. This in turn allows the patient to feel less stressed and anxious. It is also non-invasive, there are no side effects, and it works well with other forms of depression treatments.
Many people find this options uncomfortable and time-consuming. In order for talk therapy to be successful, there also needs to be a good relationship between the patient and therapist which is not a guarantee. Talk therapy also cannot combat any chemical imbalances in the brain which are often the underlying cause of depression.
Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS)
TMS utilizes magnetic pulses that target the part of the brain which is responsible for mood regulation. This treatment is painless, has minimal side effects and is administered over the course of several weeks.
TMS is a great alternative for those who do not like the side effects of traditional medication. It is usually covered by all major insurance companies, and can be used in conjunction with talk therapy and medication.
Due to the length of treatment schedule, many find this to be too much of a time commitment. Some people also experience headaches as a side effect of the treatment and TMS is not an option for everyone. If a patient has an underlying medical condition, they may not be eligible for this treatment.
Ketamine for Depression
Ketamine has been gaining a lot of attention as a treatment for depression. It works differently from traditional antidepressants, targeting the glutamate system rather than serotonin receptors. Ketamine has been said to “reset” the brain so the areas that cause depression begin to work better and more smoothly.
The most notable advantage ketamine has over any other treatment option, is how quickly it works. Ketamine has been shown to alleviate depression symptoms in a matter of hours compared to weeks or months, which is the normal timeline for traditional medications. It also has been very successful in patients who have not had success with other treatment options.
Since the use of ketamine to treat depression is fairly new, there is still more research that needs to be conducted in order for researchers to fully understand how it works. Ketamine infusions can be expensive, and besides in rare circumstances, ketamine infusions are not covered by insurance plans.
Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT)
ECT involves the application of an electrical current sent briefly to the brain. This current triggers a small seizure which is believed to cause a biochemical change to the brain which can result in diminishing or disappearing symptoms.
Like Ketamine, ECT is quick to work and helps patients who have not had success with other treatment options. Most patients who use ECT see results after about six treatments with full improvement taking slightly longer.
ECT is generally a safe treatment however is does come with the risk of side effects. These can include confusion, memory loss, physical side effects such as nausea and headaches.
Depression treatments come in all different shapes and sizes. The important thing is to not give up hope. Mental health professionals will make sure they try to put together the best plan for their patients. When it comes to the above treatments, they are continuously being improved upon with research. The future also holds promise for new options to help treat this mental illness.
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