Depression continues to be one of the most common mental illnesses in the United States. In 2017, an estimated 17.3 million adults in the U.S. suffered from at least one depressive episode. Globally, it is one of the leading causes of disability. As of January 2020, a total of 264 million people were affected worldwide. Various combinations of genetics, biological, environmental, and psychological factors play a role in its development. Unfortunately, at its worse, it can lead to a dramatic decrease in everyday functioning and eventually even suicide. However, despite its prevalence and severity, it can be treated and even cured. There are proven effective treatments and countless mental health professionals readily available.
In western medicine, depression is typically treated with psychotherapy, medication, or both. Additionally, brain stimulation therapy has been making a name for itself as well. A holistic approach will also show vast improvements – meaning physical, emotional, social, and spiritual wellness may need to be addressed. Finding the correct treatments and the right approach has never been more possible and attainable. With medications and psychotherapy being the most used therapies in the U.S., let’s jump into some data and research regarding the two.
Major Depressive Disorder
Persistent Depressive Disorder
Seasonal Affective Disorder
Major depressive disorder (MDD) is characterized by a number of key symptoms lasting more than two weeks.
Previously known as dysthymia, is a type of chronic depression present for more days than not for at least two years.
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is characterized by low mood and social withdrawal that sets in during the winter months and improves in the spring.
Pregnancy can bring about undesired hormonal changes that can significantly impact a woman’s mood after during or after childbirth.
Psychotic depression is characterized by symptoms of major depression along with psychotic features, such as hallucinations.
Antidepressants can improve the way the brain uses chemicals that control mood and stress. Often times there may be a trial-and-error period when searching for the right match. The end goal is to find the medication that improves symptoms with the least amount of side effects. Medication typically takes at least 2 to 4 weeks to take effect. Patience may be required as the initial goal is to reduce the symptoms before addressing the root. Once the depression has lifted, the treatment is continued for at least four to nine months. Many patients feel the desire to stop taking medication once they start feeling better; however, this may cause the depression to return. This final process is necessary to prevent relapse.
The most commonly used antidepressants include tricyclic antidepressants, selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors, and selective serotonin noradrenaline re-uptake inhibitors. Depression may be caused by an imbalance in neurotransmitters (such as serotonin) and these medications work to increase their availability in the brain. Studies with adults with moderate to severe depression show that when taking a placebo, about 20-40 out of 100 of them noticed symptom relief in a six to eight week course. Comparatively, about 40-60 out of the 100 adults who took the actual antidepressant saw improvements in symptoms. Basically at least 20 more adults saw improvements with medication. Furthermore, studies show that medications help lower the risk of relapsing. About half of the individuals who received the placebo had a relapse in one to two years and only 23 out of the 100 experienced one in the same amount of time. In conclusion, medications prove to be effective for many as a standalone option.
Also referred to as counseling or “talk therapy”, psychotherapy is a broad term used for treating depression through identifying and understanding painful emotions, thoughts, and habits. Some examples of psychotherapy include behavioral activation, cognitive behavioral therapy, interpersonal psychotherapy, and holistic therapy. Therapists may use one technique or a combination of two or more. In 1986, it was found that after one to seven therapy sessions, 60-65% of people experienced drastic relief in symptoms. After six months, it increased to 70-75%, and 85% after one year. This is a great reminder that suffering in silence does not have to be the norm.
It is suggested that abnormalities in the corticolimbic system may be the cause of depression. The corticolimbic systems make up the prefrontal cortex, the hippocampus, the amygdala, and the anterior cingulate cortex. It is believed that psychotherapy may assist in the modulation of dysfunctional networks in these areas. Psychotherapy may strengthen the cortical emotion regulatory processes. This then leads to enhanced regulation over limbic regions, which reduces significant emotional reactions to negative stimuli. This creates a more peaceful and balanced environment in the brain.
There is Hope
While depression continues to plague the world, there are available treatments and there is always hope. There is not a one-size-fits-all when it comes to depression, so what works for one person may not work for another. Antidepressants alone may be enough for one. Talk therapy may be all someone else needs. While another individual may need two medications, vigorous psychotherapy, TMS, and a holistic approach. There is no shame in any solution. Staying educated and keeping the conversation open is what will help end this global condition.
Types of Depression
Learn more about the various types of depression. If you feel you may be experiencing depression, then TMS Institute of GPMH can help. We’re in the business of transforming lives in the most effective, and holistic way. Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) offers those suffering from depression an opportunity for long-term remission from undesired and life-robbing symptoms.
Get Immediate Crisis Care
If you are in crisis and need immediate support or intervention, call or go to the nearest Emergency Room or call
Suicide & Crisis Lifeline
Trained crisis workers are available to talk 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Your confidential and toll-free call goes to the nearest crisis center in the Lifeline national network. These centers provide crisis counseling and mental health referrals.
If the situation is potentially life-threatening, call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room.