Severe depression, also known as major depressive disorder, causes persistent sadness as well as a lack of interest. Those with these condition experience negative emotions and daily lows that never seem to go away. Thanks to studies and alternative treatment options, patients don’t have to suffer from the symptoms of severe depression.
Many patients who suffer from severe depression don’t experience success with antidepressants. Thankfully there are proven alternative treatment options that are useful in minimizing depression symptoms.
- Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS)
TMS is a safe, effective, and FDA-approved treatment for major depressive disorder. The treatment works by stimulating underactive areas in the brain, including those in the left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. The treatment also targets the interconnected brain regions that control the mood regulatory network. This network is dysfunctional in those with depression. Using TMS, activity in the prefrontal cortex can be stimulated and the mood regulatory network is returned to normal function.
This treatment uses a strong magnetic field that introduces electric currents in certain areas of the brain. These pulses may reset and repair the impacted areas of the brain in treatment-resistant depression. Most common side effects include:
- Mild headache
- Hearing problems
- Painful scalp sensations
However, these symptoms typically subside quickly. Talk to your doctor about whether or not TMS is a viable option for you.
- Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT)
ECT is somewhat similar to TMS in that electric currents are used. However, in ECT treatment, the currents produce a controlled seizure to stimulate a burst of synchronized brain wave activity. To prevent the common symptoms of a seizure, patients are given anesthesia and a muscle relaxant. This prevents the occurrence of convulsions and other side effects. Because of this, seizure activity can only be seen on an electroencephalogram.
The controlled seizure typically lasts around 30 seconds and the burst of activity can help to repair underactive or dysfunctional areas of the brain. When treating severe depression with ECT, patients may experience minimal side effects such as headache, nausea, muscle ache, and jaw pain. In more serious cases, patients experience memory loss. This typically fixes itself in weeks or months after treatment has concluded.
- Natural Remedies
Turn on the television or browse the Internet and you’ve find dozens of “miracle” supplements. While most of these haven’t been properly tested to determine their effectiveness, there are herbal and natural remedies that have proven to be useful in minimizing depression symptoms.
One of the top options is St. John’s wort. This supplement isn’t approved by the FDA to treat depression but it’s widely used throughout Europe. Before taking this herbal supplement, be sure to discuss with your doctor as the herb can interfere with birth control pills, blood thinners, and chemotherapy.
Another herbal supplement that’s proven to be useful in minimizing depression symptoms is SAMe. This is a synthetic form of S-adenosylmethionine that can be given in prescription form.
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a popular form of talk therapy that has proven to be just as useful as antidepressants. CBT works for those diagnosed with mild, moderate, and severe depression. This form of therapy is most effective when combined with other treatments.
CBT works through the idea that our thoughts impact our emotions. Those with depression tend to have negative or false thoughts which can worsen depression symptoms. With CBT, patients are taught ways to embrace positive and realistic thoughts.
For example, someone diagnosed with depression may feel as if they’re flawed or unable to achieve anything in life. Through CBT, patients are made aware of these thoughts. Therapists then teach ways to turn these ideas into more positive ones such as thinking that they have high self-worth and can achieve anything.
A positive attitude change can lead to positive behaviors and actions.
- Light Therapy
There are several forms of severe depression, including seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Patients with SAD experience depression symptoms during the short and dark winter days. The condition causes fatigue, sleepiness, increased appetite, irritability, and trouble focusing. SAD is often attributed to a lack of sunlight which can disrupt the internal clock and cause depression symptoms.
To ease symptoms, light therapy can be used. This treatment involves sitting near bright lights that are meant to mimic natural sunlight. Treatment sessions typically last around 15 minutes, but can increase to around two hours. Session times are highly dependent on the intensity of the light as well as the severity of your symptoms.
While light therapy doesn’t cure depression, it’s proven to be useful in minimizing symptoms, especially those caused by SAD. In fact, most patients experience results in just a few treatment sessions.
Suffering from severe depression can feel hopeless, especially if you’ve tried all sorts of antidepressants without experiencing relief. To improve your depression symptoms, keep these 5 alternative severe depression treatment options.