What do you do when therapy and medication don’t work?

Depression affects more than 300 million people worldwide. Despite the high number of reported cases, there is no surefire depression cure. It’s a universal concern.

There are, however, plenty of treatment options. Counseling and antidepressant medications are by far the most commonly prescribed methods for treating depression, and many individuals find success with these traditional treatments.

But what happens when they don’t work? What if your depression is resistant to therapy and medication, or you are simply looking for another recommendation, or you have intolerable side effects? 

Explore a different type of depression treatment.

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Common Depression Treatments

Depression Counseling

The American Psychiatric Association defines psychotherapy, or counseling, as way to help people with a broad variety of emotional difficulties.

Simply put, psychotherapy involves regular meetings with a mental health professional in which a patient’s problems are discussed. The care provider  — who may be a therapist, counselor, psychologist, or psychiatrist — guides each discussion and leads the patient to better understand the root of their issues with the goal of developing healthy ways to cope.

Antidepressant Medications

When counseling is not enough, or if symptoms become unbearable, a provider may prescribe an antidepressant medication to treat moderate to severe depression.

Depression is thought to be caused by an imbalance of chemicals  — neurotransmitters — that facilitate communication between nerve cells in the brain. Antidepressants work by affecting the behavior of certain neurotransmitters, like serotonin or noradrenaline, that are linked to feelings and emotion. The goal is to restore balance and allow the patient to better regulate mood. The most commonly prescribed antidepressants include:

  • Fluoxetime (Prozac)
  • Citalopram (Celexa)
  • Escitalopram (Lexapro)
  • Sertraline (Zoloft)
  • Duloxetine (Cymbalta)
  • Venlafaxine (Effexor)

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Why Do Talk Therapy and Medication Fail?

Both counseling and antidepressant medications have proven to effectively treat a large number of depression cases. But they aren’t always successful.

When it comes to counseling, it can be difficult for patients to find a mental healthcare professional with whom they can foster a good working relationship. Not all therapists are created equal, and one may be better equipped to help a certain individual than the next, due to a unique combination of personalty traits or skill sets. It can also be difficult sticking to a treatment plan, as counseling is often slow progressing, and it can take months or even years of consistent treatment to make a breakthrough.

Antidepressant medications can also fail. They may simply not work with a patient’s particular body chemistry.

Some medications also may cause severe side effects — such as nausea, lack of sexual desire or decrease in sexual performance, insomnia, weight gain, constipation, and agitation — that greatly outweigh the benefits of taking the medication in the first place. 

“Both talk therapy and antidepressant medications have proven to improve a large number of depression cases. But they aren’t always successful.”

Alternative Treatments for Depression

Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) Therapy

Transcranial magnetic stimulation, or TMS for short, is a noninvasive, non-drug therapy technique that applies magnetic pulses to specific parts of the brain associated with depression.

During treatment, a trained technician uses a TMS machine to produce magnetic pulses in the patient’s brain. These pulses activate cells within the brain which are thought to release neurotransmitters like serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine. In the past, TMS was reserved for those patients who have tried other forms of traditional treatment without success. In most cases, people who utilize TMS therapy do see noted improvements with very minimal negative side effects.

TMS Center of the Lehigh Valley is the Allentown area’s premiere provider of TMS therapy for depression, established in 2010 and treating over 500 patients. 

Lifestyle Changes

Lifestyle changes are often recommended alongside talk therapy or medication as a part of a larger depression treatment plan. When appropriate, mental healthcare professionals encourage patients to adopt healthier diets, exercise, reduce drug and alcohol intake, pursue more social interaction, and take other steps that are thought to naturally treat the symptoms of depression.

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