Can Depression be Cured?
Although depression happens in waves, it is a lifelong illness. As with any chronic health condition such as diabetes or heart disease, major depressive disorder never goes away. But, depression symptoms can be managed, and people with the disorder can live a fulfilling life, free from painful, distressing symptoms.
Major depressive disorder symptoms can ebb and flow over the course of a person’s lifetime. It’s true that symptoms can subside on their own without treatment. The problem is that there is no way for the patient or their loved ones to know if symptoms will get worse before they get better. People with untreated depression are at 25 times the risk of a person without depression of attempting suicide. Suicide in the U.S. is the tenth leading cause of preventable death. For depressed patients and their loved ones, it’s crucial that people get adequate treatment and support for clinical depression.
Depression symptoms that aren’t managed can severely impact a person’s day-to-day functioning. In addition, depression symptoms can also worsen physical conditions a person may have. Depression weakens immunity, can lead to cardiovascular problems, and even cognitive decline. Fortunately, up to 80% of people who seek treatment for their depression will see a reduction in depression symptoms.
What are the most common treatment methods for depression and how effective are they?
Depression is a multifaceted illness. It’s also one of the most common mental health conditions in the world. Treatment methods will vary for each person, but the majority of depressed patients respond well to a combination of medication and different types of therapies.
But, there is a significant minority of depression patients who do not respond to traditional treatment methods. For these patients, deep brain stimulation techniques (DBS) can help. Depression patients who respond favorably to DBS will need ongoing maintenance sessions throughout their lifetime to manage their symptoms effectively.
SSRIs, SNRIs, TCAs, and MAOIs
These types of medications are some of the most common treatment methods for depressive symptoms. SSRIs, TCAs, and SNRIs are newer classes of drugs and work by manipulating levels of serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine in the brain. These naturally occurring chemicals are responsible for feelings of well being, emotional regulation, and the way people respond to stress. Norepinephrine is known to be responsible for protecting the brain from the negative consequences of stress.
MAOIs are an older class of medication and aren’t prescribed as often anymore because they interact negatively with many different foods and drinks. However, MAOIs are still an effective course of treatment where newer classes of antidepressant treatment have failed. Out of 100 people who take one of these types of drugs for depression, up to 60 will see a reduction in symptoms within six to eight weeks.
Antidepressant medications can take several weeks to produce any noticeable effects. For cases of severe depression where suicide is a risk, constant observation may be warranted until the risk of suicide has subsided. Deep brain stimulation techniques may also be the first course of treatment for severe cases of depression.
Depression requires an integrated approach to treatment. In most cases, medication isn’t enough, and patients need a combination of different talk therapies to help them manage their symptoms. Cognitive behavioral therapies (CBT) are some of the most effective talk therapy options for depressed patients.
CBT helps patients:
- Change their negative thinking habits and behaviors that are often associated with depressed thinking.
- Focus on recognizing and changing these negative thought patterns that can worsen depression symptoms.
- Help patients reframe distorted thinking by looking at their fears and worries more realistically.
In clinical studies, CBT has been shown to be responsible for a 61% decrease in relapse rates of depressive symptoms.
Deep Brain Stimulation Techniques
Deep brain stimulation techniques are non-surgical options for many different mental health disorders, including depression. Some patients are unable to respond favorably to medication and therapy alone. Some of the most common and promising deep brain stimulation techniques for depression include the following:
Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT)
ECT is a safe and effective method for reducing acute depression symptoms and preventing relapse of depression. In ECT, an electric current is passed through the brain to induce a mild seizure, lasting less than one minute. Patients are sedated and cannot feel any pain or distress during ECT. After anesthesia wears off, patients can resume their normal activities.
While medications are up to 60% effective, ECT is effective in up to 90% of depression cases. ECT can be administered quickly and is highly recommended for severe depression where suicide is a risk and patients are experiencing distressing symptoms, such as hallucinations and paranoia.
Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS)
TMS is highly effective for depression like ECT. However, TMS is a less invasive technique, and patients are awake during the procedure. TMS uses a magnetic coil, placed over direct locations on the brain, to target areas with magnetic stimulation to treat depression symptoms. Unlike ECT, TMS is a more targeted technique and has fewer side effects than in ECT. Some ECT patients may experience problems with short-term memory, but with TMS treatment, this isn’t an issue.
Up to 65% of TMS patients respond to treatment and see a reduction in symptoms immediately. A further 35% of TMS patients will experience a remission of symptoms for up to one year. For people who do not respond to medications or are suspicious of antidepressant side effects, TMS is a viable option.
Depression is a serious illness that can impact every aspect of a person’s life. If it is left untreated, depression symptoms can even cause physical side effects that can worsen a person’s health. For depression sufferers, it’s crucial that they are able to find a treatment method that is customized and gives them the least amount of side effects.
If you are suffering from depression symptoms, there is hope. Please reach out to a knowledgeable therapist today to explore your options.