Depression is one of the most common mental health issues this century. Sufferers can experience a range of symptoms, but most feel as though they’re under a dark shadow that they simply can’t escape. Many have feelings of guilt, worthlessness and helplessness or pessimism and hopelessness; they can have trouble concentrating, remembering details or making decisions; they might suffer from insomnia, early-morning wakefulness or fatigue; they can be restless or irritable, or lose interest in things they once found pleasurable, including sex.
In some cases, depression is caused by an existing medical condition and symptoms will disappear when the underlying condition is addressed, but for most, further treatment is required. More severe cases of depression require more intensive treatments and some trial and error may be needed to find the right treatment plan.
Though there is no “one size fits all” cure and there are many effective options, treatment for depression generally is two-faceted, combining antidepressant medications with psychotherapy. Antidepressants work by helping the brain circuits that control emotions and mood work more efficiently. They typically do this by increasing the amount of serotonin, which transmits signals between different areas of the brain; medications called SSRI – selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors are usually the first choice for doctors as they have the fewest side effects. However, the patient may still experience nausea; nervousness or difficulty sleeping; restlessness; drowsiness; dry mouth; dizziness, headaches or blurred vision; diarrhea or constipation; or sexual problems such as erectile dysfunction or difficulty reaching orgasm. In rare cases, patients – particularly children, teenagers and young adults – may have more negative thoughts while taking antidepressants and many even have suicidal thoughts or behaviours.
Regular psychotherapy sessions can help a person with depression to understand their feelings and better manage difficult emotions. A therapists can help manage stress or confront and overcome fears that are hindering your recovery.
Electroconvulsive therapy is an option for severe case of depression, when drugs and psychotherapy are not effective – in a series of sessions, while under general anesthesia, a small painless electric current is sent through the brain, causing a brief seizure that may relieve symptoms of depression. More recent technologies such as repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation, vagal nerve stimulation or deep brain stimulation have also been effective in treating depression as they stimulate the areas of the brain believe to control mood.
While these treatments can help alleviate most symptoms of depression, a lifestyle change can also help improve the overall mood; getting regular exercise, limiting caffeine and alcohol, eating healthier alternatives while limiting sugar and fat can all be effective as well. Reducing stress and sleeping at least seven to nine hours per night can also impact depression.
At Valiant Behavioral Health, we like to explore Nutraceutical approaches to treating depression as our first course of action, if this is still not effective we will look at pharmaceutical options after.
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