As of yet, there is no lab test for depression. To make an accurate diagnosis, doctors rely on a patient’s description of the symptoms. You’ll be asked about your medical history and medication use since these may contribute to symptoms of depression. Discussing moods, behaviors, and daily activities can help reveal the severity and type of depression. This is a critical step in determining the most effective treatment.
Talk Therapy for Depression
Studies suggest different types of talk therapy can fight mild to moderate depression. Cognitive behavioral therapy aims to change thoughts and behaviors that contribute to depression. Interpersonal therapy identifies how your relationships impact your mood. Psychodynamic psychotherapyhelps people understand how their behavior and mood are affected by unresolved issues and unconscious feelings. Some patients find a few months of therapy are all they need, while others continue long term.
Medications for Depression
Antidepressants affect the levels of brain chemicals, such as serotonin and norepinephrine. There are many options. Give antidepressants a few weeks of use to take effect. Good follow-up with your doctor is important to evaluate their effectiveness and make dosage adjustments. If the first medication tried doesn’t help, there’s a good chance another will. The combination of talk therapy and medication appears particularly effective.
Exercise for Depression
Research suggests exercise is a potent weapon against mild to moderate depression. Physical activity releases endorphins that can help boost mood. Regular exercise is also linked to higher self-esteem, better sleep, less stress, and more energy. Any type of moderate activity, from swimming to housework, can help. Choose something you enjoy and aim for 20 to 30 minutes four or five times a week.
The Role of Social Support
Because loneliness goes hand-in-hand with depression, developing a social support network can be an important part of treatment. This may include joining a support group, finding an online support community, or making a genuine effort to see friends and family more often. Even joining a book club or taking classes at your gym can help you connect with people on a regular basis.
Vagus Nerve Stimulation (VNS)
Vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) can help patients with treatment-resistant depression that does not improve with medication. VNS is like a pacemaker for the brain. The surgically implanted device sends electrical pulses to the brain through the vagus nerve in the neck. These pulses are believed to ease depression by affecting mood areas of the brain.
Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT)
Another option for patients with treatment-resistant or severe melancholic depression is electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). This treatment uses electric charges to create a controlled seizure. Patients are not conscious for the procedure. ECT helps 80% to 90% of patients who receive it, giving new hope to those who don’t improve with medication.
Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation
A newer option for people with stubborn depression is repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS). This treatment aims electromagnetic pulses at the skull. It stimulates a tiny electrical current in a part of the brain linked to depression. rTMS does not cause a seizure and appears to have few side effects. But doctors are still fine-tuning this treatment.
In the midst of major depression, you may feel hopeless and helpless. But the fact is, this condition is highly treatable. More than 80% of people get better with medication, talk therapy, or a combination of the two. Even when these therapies fail to help, there are cutting-edge treatments that pick up the slack.