Treatment Options for Depression (cont.)

There are other antidepressants that are not members of these classes.

Why Are Stimulants Prescribed for Depression?

Doctors sometimes prescribe other medications such as stimulants and anti-anxiety drugs to use in conjunction with an antidepressant. This is especially likely if the patient has a co-existing mental or physical disorder. However, neither anti-anxiety medications nor stimulants are effective against depression when taken alone.

Talk to your doctor about this type of treatment. Ask if it might boost the effect of your antidepressant.

What Is Psychotherapy's Role in Depression Treatment?

The role of psychotherapy in treating depression is to help the person develop appropriate and workable coping strategies. These strategies help deal with everyday stressors and increase medication adherence. There are different types of psychotherapy, including individual, family, and group therapy. Your doctor will help you find the best type of psychotherapy for you.

When Is Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT) Recommended for Depression?

Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), also known as electroshock therapy, is typically used to treat severe depression. During ECT, a skilled doctor applies a brief electric current through the scalp to the brain. This current induces a seizure. ECT is very effective at treating depression.

ECT is generally used when severe depression is unresponsive to other forms of therapy. Or it might be used when patients pose a severe threat to themselves or others and it is dangerous to wait until medications take effect.

For in-depth information, see WebMD's Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT) for Depression.

What Is Vagus Nerve Stimulation (VNS) for Depression?

Vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) can be used to treat those with treatment-resistant depression, using a pacemaker-like device that is implanted in the body. Once implanted, this device delivers regular electrical impulses to the vagus nerve, one of the nerves that relays information to and from the brain.

What Is the Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) Device for Treating Depression?

The FDA has cleared the NeuroStar TMS device for treating depressed adults for whom one antidepressant has failed to work.

While ECT uses an electric current to induce seizure, TMS creates a magnetic field to induce a much smaller electric current in a specific part of the brain without causing seizure or loss of consciousness.

TMS is used to treat milder depression and works best in patients who have failed to benefit from one, but not two or more, antidepressant treatments. Also, unlike ECT, TMS does not require sedation and is administered on an outpatient basis.

Patients undergoing TMS must be treated four or five times a week for four weeks.

WebMD Medical Reference

SOURCES:

National Institute of Mental Health: "What is Depression?" "Brain Stimulation Therapies."

FDA: "The Lowdown on Depression."

Mental Health America: Mpower: "Facts about Depression and Suicide."

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance: "Psychotherapy: How it works and how it can help."

American Psychiatric Association. Practice Guideline for the Treatment of Patients with Major Depression, 2000.

American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders: DSM-IV-TR, American Psychiatric Pub, 2000.

Fieve, R. Bipolar II, Rodale Books, 2006.

Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD on March 09, 2011

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Last Editorial Review: 3/9/2011