Major Depressive Disorder Treatments

Major Depressive Disorder Treatments

A severe category of depression, major depression is a serious illness that affects 15 million American adults, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. Its symptoms are more intense than depression and drastically affects the brain chemistry, where an individual becomes incapable of functioning at a normal level. This can include altered thoughts, feelings, behavior, mood and overall health.

Generally the result of a traumatic event, major depression can lead to more severe symptoms that can even lead to suicide, if left untreated. There are currently several treatment options available such as medication, cognitive-behavioral and electric shock treatments, offering sufferers hope and relief from the illness. Depending on the severity of the illness, a combination of treatments may be used and determined based on the specific profile and needs of a patient.

Antidepressant Medication
Antidepressant medication, available by a prescription, is one of the most common types of medicine used to treat major depression. Some common antidepressant medications include: selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI), atypical antidepressants, tricyclic antidepressants (TCA) and monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOI). These medications work by elevating neurotransmitters in the brain, which increases "feel good" receptors such as serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine. This can signal neurotransmission, which improves and enhances mood. Additionally, this can improve sleep, appetite and levels of energy.

Generally, antidepressants are prescribed at a low dose, which may be increased or changed as determined by the tolerance and reaction of a patient. Typically, individuals who respond well to medication in the past experience the most favorable results in antidepressants.

Psychotherapy --- Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy
Psychotherapy is effective in treating major depression, which is generally used as a combination treatment with antidepressant medication. One type of psychotherapy includes cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). This treatment works by helping patients change their state of mind, negative thoughts and low self-esteem, essentially the causes of major depression. By identifying the causes a patient can better deal and understand the illness. This involves working with a cognitive therapist, who teaches patients to develop coping skills in managing stress, anxiety and negative situations where they can feel better through a positive perspective. They also work to elevate mood by reinforcing patients to partake in new and exciting experiences where they can attain a sense of accomplishment.

Psychotherapy --- Interpersonal Therapy
Another form of psychotherapy is interpersonal therapy (IPT). This treatment focuses on improving difficult relationships in a patient's personal life, which is the cause of the major depression. Patients work with a therapist to learn how to forgive people and move on without harboring guilt or anger. This treatment also reinforces them to take responsibility for their lives as they develop skills to cope and build a new life toward achievement, success and pleasure.

Electroconvulsive Therapy
Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is a treatment utilized for major depression but is surrounded in controversy, mainly since some patients suffer memory loss, which in some cases can be permanent.

Commonly referred to as "shock treatment," ECT works by putting electric currents on the skull, which is designed to transmit electricity to the brain and essentially induce a seizure through the bilateral or unilateral method. During the bilateral ECT, a single electric current goes on the left and right hemisphere of the brain. In the unilateral method, electric currents are placed over the left hemisphere or the non-dominant hemisphere, generally done to right-handed people. Through both methods, ECT increases levels of neurotransmitters in the brain such as serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine. This works almost instantly as it improves neurotransmission and elevates mood and symptoms of depression with each treatment. Although one method is not more effective than the other, adverse side effects such as memory loss are often correlated with the bilateral ECT method.

Major depression is also treated with hospitalization. This form of treatment is where a patient lives at a hospital for a designated amount of time determined by a physician. Generally, patients are hospitalized when they cannot take care of themselves, become suicidal and are not responding to medication, psychotherapy or a combination of the two.