Treatment for depression has come a long way since its primary causes were thought to include demonic possession in ancient (and not so ancient) times. In Hippocrates’ era, depression was thought of as a mental disorder caused by an imbalance of certain bodily fluids: treatment consisted of practices such as bloodletting, special baths, and methods such as diet and exercise.
Fortunately, we’ve left behind that era and surpassed even our basic, rudimentary understanding of the disorder just 100 years ago. After the discovery of certain drugs’ effects on mental illness in the 1950s, medical practitioners opened up a plethora of treatment options. As time has passed, we’ve only learned more, and our treatment of depression has evolved along with our understanding. Below, we’ve answered a few commonly asked questions about traditional depression treatment–and address an alternative to the typical treatments.
I just started a new medication, how long will it take to feel better?
While each medication will react differently with each individual, and at different paces, the general standard is between 2 and 8 weeks after you start treatment is when you should start noticing improvements in your symptoms.
My medication has a black box warning, what is that?
A black box warning is the highest level of warning available to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). This warning indicates there is a potential for developing serious side effects with your medication, or worsening of your symptoms currently. It’s important to monitor your mood carefully, and keep a sharp eye out for possible side effects.
I’m not sure if I want to take medication to help. Do I have other options?
Yes! There are a great many non-pharmaceutical treatments for depression. From cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), to electro-convulsive therapy (ECT), to good old fashioned diet, exercise, and sleep regulation, you have a wide variety of options to help treat your depression!
I’ve heard about TMS, but I don’t really understand it!
An up and coming non-pharmaceutical treatment for depression is Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation, or TMS. This non-invasive, FDA-approved method of treatment uses magnetic waves–or energy–to stimulate parts of the brain that help regulate mood. It may be a better option for people with treatment-resistant depression–or those who don’t wish to take medication–as an alternative to ECT. There are no needles or wires involved; you sit in a chair while a magnetic device is placed on your head, which sends magnetic pulses to the aforementioned parts of your brain.
About one-third of patients who undergo TMS therapy experience full remission of symptoms. Many patients choose to come back for “maintenance” treatments to prevent a relapse in symptoms. TMS is better tolerated than ECT, with most side effects resolving themselves a few hours after treatment.
Overall, TMS may be a good option for you if your depression has been shown to be treatment-resistant, or if medications aren’t well tolerated. Side effects are often minimal, and haven’t been shown to increase the severity of depression–though it’s always a good idea to talk with your doctor about your concerns. Our team is more than happy to assist you with further questions, and help guide you through the whole process.