Jun 19th 2023
Depression is a mental health condition that impacts the way a person thinks and feels. Depression is characterized by a persistent feeling of sadness, impaired ability to function, and a feeling of hopelessness about the future. Although there is no cure for depression, it can be successfully managed with professional treatment, such as therapy and medication, and self-care techniques.
Depression can affect people in different ways, sometimes causing very different symptoms in people who share the same diagnosis. There are also different types of depression, that can cause a range of symptoms. These differing types may have different underlying causes or symptom duration .
As such, different types and severities of depression may have different recovery processes. For example, some people might be able to recover from an episode of depression with no professional assistance, while others might require life-long treatment to manage their symptoms .
As there is no cure for depression, it can require life-long treatment and there is often a risk of relapse, meaning that symptoms of depression can return. The risk of relapse may be higher for those who have experienced very severe episodes of depression or if treatment has been unsuccessful in the past .
However, many people with depression can manage their symptoms with professional treatment and self-care, so that they can continue to function well in personal, professional, and social aspects .
Depression is often treated with a combination of therapy and medication, which may vary from person to person. Treatment approaches depend on the severity of the individual’s condition, their current symptoms, their response to various treatments, and the duration of their illness .
The goal of depression treatment is to manage symptoms so that the individual can function well, have a good quality of life, and avoid severe relapses .
Often for the treatment of depression, one antidepressant medication will be prescribed. Although some individuals may need additional medications to help improve their symptoms.
Medications can cause different responses in people, so what is effective at treating one person’s symptoms may not be as effective for another’s. Therefore, it can sometimes be necessary to change medications or doses to find the most effective treatment .
Most medications cause side effects at the start of treatment, such as headaches, stomach upset, and drowsiness. These side effects will typically only last a few weeks as your body adjusts to the medication. However, if you experience any persistent or concerning side effects it is important to consult with your doctor, as you may require a change of medication .
In some cases, someone with depression may need to receive treatment in hospital. Hospitalization is usually required for depression if the individual is at a very high risk of suicide or has made several attempts. Hospitalization may also be required if the individual is a risk of harm to others or is experiencing severe symptoms that cannot be managed at home.
While in hospital, a team of professionals will provide treatment, with the aim to stabilize the individual’s mental state by administering medication and therapeutic interventions. The individual will then return home when their condition is stable with a plan around their continuing treatment .
Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is a treatment that can be used to treat severe depression that has not responded to other treatment. ECT involves the use of electrical pulses that stimulate the brain. The procedure is very brief and occurs while the individual is under general anesthesia .
ECT is typically performed up to 12 times over several weeks. The aim of ECT is to provide a rapid improvement in symptoms, which can be particularly beneficial for those who experience catatonia or are a very high risk of suicide .
If ECT or other types of brain stimulation therapy are deemed an appropriate treatment, a doctor will discuss the risks and benefits with the individual and their family or carer. Following ECT, treatment will typically continue with the use of medication and therapy .
While therapy and medication are often crucial to successfully treating depression, it is also very important to ensure that you engage in healthy behaviors and habits to maintain your physical and mental wellbeing. This includes :
There is ongoing research into the treatment of depression and new medications and treatments are regularly being developed and tested. It is unlikely that there will ever be a cure for depression, as it often has several underlying causes and contributing factors, thus presenting differently from person to person, but new treatments may increase the likelihood of successful recovery .
New medications for depression include:
New treatments that are being developed include variations of ECT, including transcranial magnetic stimulation, which uses brain stimulation to treat depression.
A treatment developed at Stanford University called Stanford Accelerated Intelligent Neuromodulation Therapy (SAINT), which uses transcranial magnetic stimulation, has been found to be very effective in trials at improving severe and treatment-resistant depression .
In 2022, the FDA approved the further development of the SAINT protocol for the treatment of MDD, so it may be available to the public in the near future .
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