When it comes to depression, many people immediately think of taking antidepressant medication, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (or SSRI’s). While antidepressants can be effective for some, they’re not the only option. In fact, there are a number of different ways to treat depressive symptoms that don’t involve medication.
Whether you’ve tried medication and experienced lingering symptoms or the side effects of antidepressants were intolerable, these other options for treating depression may be right for you.
Let’s look at some of the non-pill treatments out there that might help resolve even the most severe cases of depression.
TMS, or transcranial magnetic stimulation, is a treatment that uses gentle magnetic pulses to focally target the specific neurocircuitry in the brain that’s responsible for depression. TMS is FDA approved for depression, plus it’s covered by most insurance.
During TMS treatment, patients relax in a private treatment room and remain awake and alert. A TMS magnet is positioned over the patient’s head. Patients report that the pulses feel like taps on the head. Each treatment session lasts about 20 minutes, after which patients can immediately return back to their daily routines.
TMS is usually given 5 days per week for 4-6 weeks. TMS is both non-invasive and non-systemic. It has fewer side effects than other treatments, and in some cases, there are no side effects at all.
Patients choose TMS because unlike medications, which affect the entire body, TMS therapy treats mental health at the source. TMS especially appealing to those who want to fight depression without taking medication or who cannot tolerate the side effects of antidepressants.
You should not do TMS if you have the following conditions:
– A pacemaker or other implanted electronic device that you cannot turn off
– Untreated seizure disorder
– An active metal implant in your head
Ketamine is a medication that is most commonly used as an anesthetic in surgical settings. Since the early 2000s, however, ketamine has been designated as a ‘breakthrough therapy’ by the FDA. Ketamine can rapidly—often within an hour or two—lift the symptoms of anxiety, depression, PTSD, OCD, and other conditions. After a short series of repeated doses, this effect typically extends out for weeks to months.
There are two main types of ketamine therapy for mood, anxiety and chronic pain: IV ketamine infusions and Spravato also known as nasal spray, esketamine.
IV Ketamine Therapy: Each ketamine infusion lasts about 40 minutes, after which patients should have someone available to accompany them home safely. During the infusion, patients experience deep relaxation and typically wear an eye mask in a dimly lit room with aromatherapy.
Ketamine is delivered at a slow and controlled dose and a registered nurse is present for the duration of the infusion. Blood pressure, heart rate and oxygen saturation are monitored. Typically, patients receive a course of 6-12 ketamine infusions over 2-4 weeks. The frequency and number of sessions are individualized. Most patients experience positive results from ketamine after their first infusion. Subsequent infusions help prolong the positive effects.
Spravato: Each Spravato treatment session lasts about 2 hours, after which patients should have someone available to accompany them home safely. During the treatment, patients administer the Spravato nasal-spray themselves under the supervision of a healthcare provider.
After patients administer Spravato, there is an observation period of at least two hours during which patients can rest comfortably. Blood pressure is monitored. Typically, patients receive Spravato twice weekly for weeks 1-4 followed by once weekly for weeks 5-8. Week 9 or thereafter, Spravato may be administered once every other week for maintenance. The frequency and number of sessions are individualized.
Ketamine’s response rate is more than double that of traditional antidepressants and ketamine works rapidly, in hours to days, compared to antidepressants which take weeks to exert their full effects.
For most patients, ketamine also has transformative effects on an individual’s perception of the world. Ketamine has a dissociative effect from one’s ordinary reality and usual self that may induce or enhance feelings of creativity, sense of purpose, point of view, insight, inspiration, gratitude, empathy, connection with others and the world, openness to new ideas, among others.
Ketamine is well tolerated. The most common side effects are:
– Dissociation (feeling disconnected from reality)
These side effects are usually mild and go away on their own within minutes to hours.
ECT, or electroconvulsive therapy, is an FDA-indicated treatment for depression that has been used for decades. It involves passing electrical currents through the brain to trigger a seizure.
ECT is usually given 3 times per week for 2-4 weeks. It is generally indicated for severe depressive symptoms but can cause some side effects, including:
– Jaw pain
– Muscle aches
These side effects are usually temporary and go away within a few hours. ECT can also cause memory problems, but these typically resolve within a few months.
ECT is considered a safe and effective treatment for depression, but it is not right for everyone. You should speak with your doctor to see if ECT is an option for you.
4. Vagus Nerve Stimulation
VNS, or vagus nerve stimulation, is a depression treatment that involves sending electrical impulses to the vagus nerve to improve brain function. This nerve is located in the neck and is connected to the brain.
VNS is usually given as a series of treatments, typically 5 times per week for 6 weeks. It is generally well tolerated but can cause some side effects, including:
– Pain or tingling in the neck
– Swallowing problems
These side effects are normally temporary and will dissipate on their own.
When considering if VNS treatment is right for your severe depression symptoms, your doctor will take into account your medical history and any other medications you are taking. VNS is not appropriate for everyone, so make sure to speak with your doctor to see if it is an option for you.
5. Light therapy
Light therapy, or phototherapy, involves exposure to bright light. This form of treatment can be effective for people with seasonal affective disorder (SAD) or for people who experience depression in the winter months.
Light therapy is typically given for 30 minutes per day, either in the morning or evening. The most common side effect is eye strain.
Some of the most common forms of light therapy include:
– Bright light therapy: A special type of lamp is used to emit bright light.
– Dawn simulation: A device is used to gradually increase the amount of light in the room over the course of 30 minutes.
You can also buy lamps for your home that are specifically designed for light therapy.
Psychotherapy, or talk therapy, is a form of treatment that involves talking with a therapist to identify and change negative thought patterns. It can be an effective treatment for depression on its own, or it can be used in combination with other treatments.
There are many different types of psychotherapy, but some of the most common include:
– Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT): CBT is a type of therapy that helps you to identify and change negative thinking patterns. It also teaches individuals healthier and more adaptive coping skills.
– Interpersonal therapy (IPT): IPT is a type of therapy that focuses on your relationships with others and how they may be affecting your depression.
– Psychodynamic therapy: This form of therapy focuses on your early childhood experiences and how they may be affecting your current mental health.
Please consult with a doctor or a mental health professional to see if psychotherapy is an option for you.
Exercise is not typically thought of as a treatment for depression, but it can be an effective way to improve your mood. Exercise releases endorphins, which have mood-boosting effects.
It is important to find an exercise routine that you enjoy and that you can stick with. Some people find that group exercise classes are a good way to stay motivated. Others prefer to exercise on their own.
How to choose the right course of severe depression treatment for you
Antidepressants can be life-changing, but they don’t work for everyone. The best way to treat symptoms of depression and other mental health conditions is to work with a mental health professional to come up with a treatment plan that is tailored to your individual needs and health goals.
Remember, there’s more to mental health treatment than medication. In fact, there are many different types of treatments available aside from antidepressant medications, so it’s important to find one that is right for you. If one treatment doesn’t work, don’t give up. There are many other options available. It is essential to be patient and to work with your mental health professional to find the best course of treatment for you.
When to Seek Professional Help for Depression
When it comes to physical health and mental health, it’s important to be proactive. If you think you might need help, don’t wait to get it. If you’re not feeling like yourself or if your symptoms are interfering with your day to day life, it’s definitely time to seek help.
Of course, it’s normal to feel sad, anxious, or stressed from time to time. But if you’re not sure why you’re feeling this way or if the feelings are just not going away, it’s worth talking to a professional. Especially if your symptoms of depression become debilitating and cause you psychological stress, then it is recommended you reach out to a mental health professional. They will be able to inform you of the best treatment options available to best reduce depressive symptoms so you can benefit from improved mental well-being.
Depression Treatment Without Medication at Neuro Wellness Spa
Neuro Wellness Spa offers innovative psychiatric depression therapies such as TMS, IV Ketamine, Spravato, and IV Nutrition which are effective at relieving symptoms of depression. Call us today to find out if any of our services are right for you or your loved one.