Medication for Depression
What are the Different Types of Medications and Treatments for Depression?
Depression is a serious and complicated disorder. Depression symptoms can impact every aspect of a person’s life, from their relationships to their day-to-day functioning, and even their physical health. As one of the most common mental health disorders in the world, there is, fortunately, a variety of treatment methods available for depression sufferers.
Different types of depression respond to certain kinds of treatment more readily than others. Also, some of the more popular treatment options may be contraindicated for individual patients. Mostly, depression symptoms respond favorably to a combination of medicines and talk therapies. But what are the most common types of medications for depression, and what should someone do if those treatment options aren’t effective? The following article will explore the different types of medications commonly used in the fight against depression and alternative treatment methods for patients.
What medications are used to treat depression?
The causes of depression and its triggers aren’t the most well-understood pieces in the mental health puzzle. Current scientific findings suggest that depression is linked to a combination of genetic, biochemical, and environmental factors. While not much can be done to manipulate a vulnerable person’s genes, therapy can help patients cope with environmental stressors that can trigger or worsen depressive symptoms. Medications can help treat the biochemical aspects of depression.
Naturally occurring neurotransmitters in the brain are responsible for feelings of mood, well-being, cognition, alertness, and energy. In depressed patients, their mood is low, they may have trouble concentrating, and alertness and energy are suppressed. Findings suggest that neurotransmitters responsible for these feelings are negatively impacted in depressed patients. Depressed patients have less dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine in the brain. The brain produces these chemicals, and also absorbs them. When the brain is unable to produce enough neurotransmitters, depression symptoms arise.
Many different types of depression medicines affect brain chemistry differently. Each one will have different side effects, too. Some patients may not respond to one medication but will find relief with another. It’s common for depression patients to try several different medicines before finding one that works for them.
What medications affect neurotransmitters to alleviate depression symptoms?
Do medications cure depression?
No, there is no “cure” for depression. Depression and other mental health conditions are lifelong illnesses that need ongoing maintenance and care. With proper treatment though, depressed patients can live a life free from depression symptoms and relapses. After many years, a particular medication may stop working, and patients may need to experiment with another one. Sometimes, patients may only need to take a prescription for a short period. After which, they will need to continue with therapy to prevent a relapse of depression.
Do some patients need to avoid medications?
Medications may not be recommended for some patients. Teenagers with depression are usually steered toward different combinations of talk therapy as the first line of treatment. For patients who cannot tolerate medicines that affect serotonin in the brain, they can develop a potentially fatal condition called serotonin syndrome.
In severe cases of depression, where suicide is a significant risk factor, or patients are experiencing psychotic symptoms, medications are not the first line of treatment. Medications can take several weeks to work. For patients in danger, they need something that will work immediately.
Fortunately, there is hope for depression patients who cannot use medications for whatever reason. Deep brain stimulation techniques, ECT and TMS, are promising alternatives for depression sufferers.
What happens if medications don’t work?
Up to 30% of depression patients will not respond well to medications. Symptoms either won’t budge, or patients will only be able to find partial relief. Half of all depression patients will fail to respond to medicines. Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), and transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) can help these patients.
With ECT, patients are sedated while doctors induce a small, quick seizure in the brain to alleviate depression symptoms. ECT works very quickly and is a painless procedure. But it does come with cognitive side effects. Patients may have issues with short-term memory, and ECT is considered minor surgery, requiring anesthesia and is administered in a hospital setting.
TMS, on the other hand, is a less invasive procedure and comes with fewer side effects than ECT. With TMS, a strong, magnetic coil is placed over certain areas of the patient’s head. A magnetic charge is used to stimulate these specific areas to alleviate depression symptoms.
With TMS, treatment is more targeted than with ECT or medications. Side effects are minimal. The most common side effect is a minor headache that goes away soon after treatment. There are no cognitive side effects with TMS, and patients can go about their usual activities after treatment. Also, up to 70% of TMS patients see a reduction in symptoms in combination with talk therapy. A further 35% of TMS patients will experience a complete remission of depression symptoms for up to one year.
Who can find relief for depression with TMS treatment?
- Patients who are unable to respond to medications
- Patients who are adversely affected by medications
- Patients who are at high risk of suicide and injury and need immediate relief
- Patients who have tried ECT but have been negatively affected by the side effects
- Patients who are uninterested in trying medication
- Patients who are looking to find relief from depression
Who should not try TMS therapy?
Anyone who has non-removable metal fillings in their heads, except for dental implants or braces, should not try TMS. Also not recommended are the following:
- Aneurysm clips or coils
- Stents in the neck or the brain
- If they wear electrodes to monitor brain activity
- If they have metallic implants in the ears or eyes
- Shrapnel or bullets in or near the head
- Metallic or magnetic sensitive ink facial tattoos
- If they have any metal objects or implants near the head and neck
Depression is a serious, lifelong condition, but it can be managed with effective treatment methods. If you are suffering from the symptoms of depression, please reach out to a mental health professional today to explore your treatment options for depression.