In 1994 I was diagnosed with a major depressive disorder. What a shock! I quickly set out to learn as much as I could about my illness. Here’s an overview of what I found out:
Depression is widespread: about 18.8 million adult Americans suffer from the various types in any given year.
Depression can affect nearly every aspect of life. Suffering and pain afflict not only the ill person, but also their loved ones. Imagine living every day with an extremely negative person. The good news is that much of this suffering can be alleviated with depression treatment—there are several options.
Depression symptoms treatments include medications, electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), and psychotherapy. Your primary care physician may be able to treat your depression; if not, you may need to consult a psychologist or psychiatrist. Either way, you and your doctor can work out a plan that suits you.
Alternative depression treatment options include vagus nerve stimulation (for those resistant to other forms of treatment); deep brain stimulation (experimental); and transcranial magnetic stimulation, (TMS) which produces an electrical current inside the brain. Food can also play a part. Darlene Kvist, MS, CNS, LN, a licensed nutritionist, at Weight and Wellness, goes as far as to say, “there are more effective solutions to help restore emotional balance to life than relying on medication. My answer is, of course, in the healing power of food. As a nutritionist I understand that food is the most important factor in the prevention and treatment of depression and anxiety.”
I was surprised to learn that ethnicity also plays a role: various ethnic groups can respond differently and may be increasingly at risk for side effects.
Medications to treat depression:
Medications for depression are many and various, but all affect the biochemicals of the brain and, in turn, affect your mood. When making a choice, you and your doctor will consider your family history of depression (if any), your symptoms, possible side effects, possible conflicts with other medications you may be taking, and any underlying conditions you may have. The important thing, I learned, is not to give up until you find the medication or combination of medications that works for you. It can take some time to sort through the various types, so hang in there and don’t give up.
You may have heard of the common antidepressants doctors prescribe: selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), such as Paxil, Celexa, Zoloft, Prozac, and Lexapro. Your doctor will most likely start you on one of these, as they have the best chance of helping you. Other possibilities include the tricyclics (TCAs). These drugs have been around a long time, and they still work, but they increase the frequency and severity side effects, which makes them second choices. Monoamine oxidase inhibitors would be a last resort when everything else has failed, as they can react negatively with certain foods. Your doctor will explain all this to you in depth.
I have had good luck with SSRIs in treating my depression. Currently, I am taking sertaline, the generic form of Zoloft, and trazadone for insomnia. The difference it has made in my life is spectacular!
Employing electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) for depression:
In ECT, an electrical current is sent through the brain, causing a seizure. ECT once had a bad reputation, caused largely by negative media coverage, and, in some cases, inappropriate usage, but these days techniques have improved, and for many it offers speedy, efficient relief of depressive symptoms. It is most often used with people who have proven resistant to other treatments or those at risk for suicide. Experts are not sure why this method works so well, they just know it does!
The benefits of psychotherapy:
Talk therapy is often used in conjunction with medication to resolve problems associated with depression. Patients are encouraged to gain insights into their feelings through verbal interactions with the psychologist or psychiatrist. Behavioral patterns can be traced and modified so that they no longer contribute to the patient’s depression.
Whichever treatment proves right for you, make a commitment to follow the plan you and your doctor have worked out until you reach a satisfactory conclusion. You’ll be glad you did!