Depression: short facts about a long-term devastating disease
New non-invasive, drug-free treatments for depression are showing promise for working with the areas of the brain that regulate mood
By Dr. Diana Ghelber, LIVING WELL Magazine
As you rush out the door to meet up with the girls, you get a brief text message from Jen saying that she will not be coming. Another headache, again! When you try calling, it goes to voicemail. It seems strange that Jen, the happy, energetic mom who is also successful in her carrier, sometimes becomes very quiet, or just disappears from life altogether.
Maybe Jen is the one in four women that may develop a depressive disorder during some point in their life. Twelve million women in the U.S. experience clinical depression each year. Although men also suffer from depression, women are twice more vulnerable than men.
Depression is as real as any other disease, but is acutely painful because it cannot be seen. In addition, strong stigma frequently causes sufferers to remain silent while doing their best to function like nothing is wrong. While it is estimated that only half of the people with depression even seek treatment, depression is the leading cause of disability in developed countries.
Depression: What it looks like
- Lack of energy
- Feeling slowed down or heavy
- Difficulty thinking or concentrating
- Difficulty communicating
- Self neglect
- Appetite change
- Sleep changes
- Productivity at work diminishes or increased absences
- Feelings of guilt & low self worth
- Suicidal thoughts or planning
Just like any other chronic disabling disease, depression needs to be addressed promptly for best long-term prognosis. To understand how depression is treated, think of the brain as a battery, part electrical and part chemical; when an imbalance occurs, disease happens. Effective treatment usually consists of a combination of medication, psychotherapy, life style changes, and most recently transcranial magnetic stimulation.
Depression symptoms are most often treated with antidepressant medications. It is believed that antidepressant medications work by increasing the levels of certain substances in the brain. These changes have a positive effect on mood, reducing feelings of depression and anxiety. Although antidepressants can be very effective, for many patients they cause unpleasant side effects, or do not provide adequate relief. Patients requiring alternatives or additions to medications now have transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) as an option. The FDA cleared TMS in 2008 to treat depression that had not responded to at least one antidepressant. TMS is an office-based procedure that is non-invasive and non-systemic. Magnetic fields, (like an MRI), are positioned over a part of the brain responsible for mood while a patient sits comfortably in a chair. During a treatment the patient feels a tapping sensation, while the pulsed magnetic fields cause an increase in activity of the brain both chemically and electrically. The area targeted is shown to be underactive, so through a series of treatments, the imbalance is corrected.
For patients not responding to medications or TMS, electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) and vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) are additional treatment options.
Very often depressed people have difficulties falling asleep; maintaining sleep or they wake up very early in the morning being unable to fall asleep again. Sleep disorder can be a cause of depression, but also can perpetuate a vicious cycle of depression, chronic fatigue, irritability, and decrease in productivity. Medication used for insomnia is often addictive and can cause long-term side effects. A successful treatment of insomnia that has become more popular in recent years is Brain Music Therapy*, which converts an individual’s brain waves to unique musical sounds. This therapy lacks side effects and is effective in about 80% of the patients.
Depression is not the disease of loneliness any more. We all have the inalienable right to pursue happiness, and as the benefactors of decades of medical striving, we possess a great many promising treatments, so no one among us should have to go on needlessly just enduring but, instead, have the opportunity to thrive.
If you would like to know more about the advanced psychiatric therapies offered by Dr. Ghelber, please call 817-659-7344 or visit psychiatryfortworth.com.
*Dr. Galina Mindlin brought Brain Music Therapy to the U.S. in 2004.