How is Depression Treated?
When someone is feeling so depressed, can’t function, and is becoming hopeless, all they care about is getting better. Becoming whole again. The traditional treatment protocol for major depression includes a combination of antidepressant drug therapy and psychotherapy. In recent years, adding complimentary holistic therapies has been found to enhance the overall treatment outcomes.
Antidepressant Drug Therapy
Currently, there are about thirty different antidepressant drugs on the market. These drugs are classified into four different categories, including:
- Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRI)
- Selective Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRI)
- Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitor (MAOI)
- Tricyclic Antidepressants
Antidepressants remain the core treatment protocol for clinical depression. The effects of the medication may take 4-6 weeks to be noticed, and it is common for the dosages and the medication itself to be adjusted and changed during the trial stages.
Antidepressants come with a wide array of side effects that make these medications challenging. A doctor will weigh the potential benefits against the possible side effects when making the decision to prescribe antidepressants. Common side effects include weight gain, sexual dysfunction, nausea, dizziness, blurred vision, dry mouth, and insomnia.
Between 30%-50% of depression patients will not respond to the drugs, so alternative treatment solutions, such as TMS therapy, are then considered. The medication can help stabilize or adjust serotonin levels in the brain chemistry, although several drugs may have to be trialed before finding the one that is most effective in minimizing depression symptom and side effects that are tolerable.
Psychotherapy is a core treatment element for managing the effects of a depressive disorder. A therapist will decide on a type of therapy, or a combination of therapies, to help guide the patient toward making positive changes in their thought and behavior patterns, as well as examining painful life events, both past and present, that may be contributing to the depression. Psychotherapy modalities are selected based on the underlying issues. Psychotherapy can be offered in individual one-on-one sessions as well as group sessions.
Some of the types of psychotherapy used to treat depression include:
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): A short-term therapy that assists patients in recognizing self-defeating thought distortions and reshaping them toward more positive, affirming thoughts while also modifying behaviors.
- Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT): Helps patients regulate emotions and better cope with stress. Also helps teach healthy interpersonal skills.
- Psychodynamic Therapy: Focuses on unresolved emotional pain due to past events, trauma, or childhood upbringing.
- Interpersonal Therapy: Focuses on interpersonal relationship interactions, social skills, and helps identify problem areas that might be contributing to depression.
- Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT): Combines cognitive therapy with the meditative practice called mindfulness to manage negative thoughts.
Holistic Therapies for Depression
There are some experiential and holistic activities that can help a patient better manage their emotions and stress levels, which in turn helps improve mood. Increasingly, with the importance of the mind-body connection in mind, mental health treatment is including these complimentary therapies or activities to the treatment plan. Some of these activities include:
- Journaling: Keeping a journal is an excellent complimentary activity that helps patients to unload their thoughts and feelings on to the written page. This helps reduce the potency of the upsetting issue while also allowing them to process their feelings.
- Mindfulness: Mindfulness training can help individuals purposefully focus on the present moment instead of being distracted by negative thoughts about something in the past or future.
- Acupuncture: This ancient Chinese practice has shown promise as a natural adjunctive treatment option for helping reduce the effects of depression. With acupuncture, tiny needles are inserted into specific locations of the body to help balance energy flow.
- Aromatherapy: Essential oils are potent medicinal grade substances extracted from plants and flowers. Certain essential oils that have antidepressant or mood enhancing properties are used in a practice called aromatherapy, where the essence of the oil is diffused into the air to be inhaled, or is rubbed onto specific points on the body
- Yoga: The specific yoga postures combined with deep breathing and mindfulness can increase the production of GABA and help patients find some relief from depression symptoms.
- Exercise: Regular cardio exercise is an outstanding natural mood booster. This is due to the production of endorphins, as well as increased levels of serotonin and dopamine, as a result of physical exertion. Exercise can also help improve sleep quality and regulate stress, both of which will contribute to wellbeing.
Adjunctive therapies are a valuable component of depression therapy as well. TMS therapy uses magnetic fields to stimulate underactive brain cells common in depression patients. Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) can assist with trauma-based depression.
Lifestyle changes are also an important element in treating depression. Getting regular quality sleep leads to better overall functioning by improving cognitive functions, mood, and energy level. A healthy diet that is high in lean proteins, whole grains, seeds, nuts, and fresh vegetables and fruits is also beneficial to overall mood.