Depression: Treatments for Depression (cont.)

Medicines

Medicines are the other key treatment for depression. There are now dozens of antidepressants that your health care provider can choose from. They include:

  • SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors.) These common medicines include some well-known names, like Lexapro , Paxil, Prozac, and Zoloft. Side effects are generally mild. They include stomach upset, sexual problems, insomnia, dizziness, weight change, and headaches.
  • Newer types. Researchers have developed many new types of antidepressants in recent years. These include drugs like Wellbutrin, Cymbalta, and Effexor . Cymbalta and Effexor may also ease chronic pain in people with depression. Side effects are usually mild. They include stomach upset, sleep problems, sexual problems, dizziness, and weakness.
  • Older antidepressants. Tricyclic antidepressants and Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors (MAOIs) were some of the first medicines used to treat depression. While they work well, they can cause serious side effects and interact with some drugs and foods. Because newer medicines work just as well, these drugs aren't used as often anymore. But if you can't take newer medicines for some reason, your health care provider may suggest these.

ECT (electroconvulsive therapy)

This is a safe and effective treatment for people with serious depression. It's typically used on people who haven't been helped by medicines or therapy.

In ECT, your doctor will use electric charges to create a controlled seizure. These seizures seem to change the chemical balance of the brain. It may sound scary. But during the procedure, you'll be unconscious, so you won't feel anything.

ECT tends to work very quickly. It also works well -- about 80%-90% of people who receive it show improvement. The most common side effect is temporary memory loss.

You might have up to 12 sessions over a few weeks. Some people get "maintenance" therapy with ECT to prevent depression from returning.

Experimental Treatments

Other treatments are being tested right now. Vagus Nerve Stimulation (VNS) is a treatment for epilepsy that researchers are trying with depression. It involves implanting a small device in your chest, like a pacemaker. But instead of sending electrical charges to the heart, it sends them to a nerve in your neck. These charges may change the balance of chemicals in your brain and relieve depression.


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