Depression is often a crippling condition. It is a severe but common mood disorder that can affect how a person thinks and feels and especially an individual’s ability to carry out everyday responsibilities. Depression often co-occurs with substance use disorders (SUDs), such as addiction, as people attempt to self-medicate their numbness with drugs, alcohol and even food. The condition can develop quickly, cause persisting symptoms and interfere with a person’s everyday life.
More than 20 million people in the United States have depression. As it continues to affect people’s lives, it is essential to recognize the leading treatment options for depression and the distressing symptoms it may bring on. While treatment plans should be individualized for each patient, most treatment plans for depression address the reasons behind depressive feelings and achieve relief from depressive symptoms.
Treating depression through psychotherapy, medication or a combination.
The first-line treatments for treating depression include psychotherapy, medication or a combination of the two. Psychotherapy, also known as “talk therapy,” involves a therapist and a patient talking together. Most psychotherapy interventions are prided on fostering a personal relationship between the therapist and patient to allow the patient to open up and be vulnerable. The therapist will use various techniques to help the patient identify and overcome harmful patterns of thought and behavior throughout multiple sessions.
Psychotherapy is an umbrella term for different approaches used during the therapy process. Some of the most popular therapy approaches used when treating depression include:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) – CBT addresses how a person’s thoughts ultimately affect their behavior. This approach helps patients identify negative and distorted thinking patterns and harmful behavior that may follow. After recognizing personal response patterns, patients will work with their therapist to practice more positive thinking and responding methods.
- Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) – DBT is similar to CBT. However, the critical difference with DBT is that it encourages patients to mindfully accept their negative thoughts and behaviors instead of trying to alter them. This approach teaches patients the importance of validation in the recovery process.
Medications are also recognized as an effective way to treat depression. Antidepressants, for example, can help to regulate how your brain uses certain chemicals that control mood and stress. No one medication works for everyone, so patients may need to try several different medications before finding one that improves personal symptoms with manageable side effects. Starting and continuing medications may be overwhelming; therefore, medication management is essential. The most effective treatment approach for depression is a combination of psychotherapy and medication so that patients can experience enough relief from symptoms to participate in therapy actively.
Treating depression through brain stimulation therapies.
Some people do not receive adequate benefits from antidepressant medication or cannot tolerate the side effects produced by them. In these cases, it is essential to understand available alternative treatments. These treatments include transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) and vagus nerve stimulation (VNS).
Transcranial magnetic stimulation is an advanced treatment modality that applies brief magnetic pulses to the brain, which stimulates different areas in the brain. An electromagnetic coil is placed onto the patient’s scalp, generating a forceful magnetic field without any intrusion into the skin, muscles or bones. TMS focuses on sending magnetic waves into the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC), an area of the brain responsible for inhibition, planning, organization and cognitive flexibility. These impulses stretch beyond solely the DLPFC and aim to disrupt communication between brain regions that regulate mood. TMS has a high success rate, making it a valuable treatment option for treating depression.
Electroconvulsive therapy is a brain stimulation procedure that passes small electric currents through the brain, triggering a brief, generalized cerebral seizure. ECT is conducted under general anesthesia. It can cause changes in brain chemistry that can reverse and treat the symptoms of certain mental health conditions, including depression.
Vagus nerve stimulation stimulates the vagus nerve through manual or electrical stimulation. The vagus nerve carries both sensory and motor information to and from the brain. When depression occurs, it can signify that the vagus nerve is not functioning as it should. VNS works to treat and relieve depressive symptoms by explicitly targeting this vital nerve. VNS is often beneficial for patients with chronic, recurrent or treatment-resistant depression.
Despite depression being a debilitating condition, it is vital to recognize that help is available for anyone who struggles with it. If a patient is treatment-resistant to psychotherapy and medication, alternative treatment options are available. When locating a treatment center that offers depression treatment, it is essential to find a facility that offers these unique and valuable treatment options.
DiscoveryMD is a treatment program for substance use and mental health that offers comprehensive treatment for those with depression. We provide specialized brain stimulation therapies and procedures to help relieve depression symptoms while fostering new ways of thought and behavior. To learn more, contact us today.