By Anita Taylor

For far too many people suffering from the effects of a major depressive disorder (MDD) those pills or capsules prescribed by a well-intended doctor simply didn’t help.  In fact, studies on the efficacy of antidepressants for treating MDD reveal that anywhere from 30-50% of patients do not achieve remission, even after trying multiple types of these drugs.  

Sometimes there may be a valid reason why the medication failed to relieve symptoms.  Possibly the initial diagnosis needs to be reconsidered, helping to better target the symptoms.  Other potential reasons for the antidepressants not working for a patient include possible comorbidities, such as anxiety or substance use disorders, or a medical illness like anemia that might be causing the depressive symptoms.  

While these possible issues might explain why the antidepressant hasn’t been effective in alleviating the life-altering symptoms of MDD, the reality may be that they simply do not help a significant number of people battling depression.  For this reason, seeking alternative treatment for severe depression without medication may be in order.

Holistic Treatment for Depression

Growing interest in alternative holistic therapies for treating a wide array of physical and emotional ailments now includes depression treatment.  In addition to addressing lifestyle habits, such as diet and exercise, holistic therapy for severe depression—without medication—is a good alternative for medication-resistant depression.  

These holistic therapies include:

  • Acupuncture
  • Biofeedback
  • Guided Imagery
  • hypnosis
  • Massage therapy
  • Meditation and mindfulness exercises
  • Aromatherapy
  • Yoga
  • Chiropractic treatments

Brain Stimulation Therapies for Treating Depression

Stimulating specific brain regions with electric or magnetic currents has been shown to be effective in treating severe depression when antidepressants are ineffective.  Each of these brain stimulation techniques is prescribed in successive therapy sessions over a period of weeks.

Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT)

Electroconvulsive therapy, also referred to as shock therapy, has a long history in treating severe depression, going back to the 1940s.  ECT involves using electrodes attached to the scalp that administer electrical currents to the brain.  While ECT is often successful in treating depression, it has certain drawbacks.  ECT requires full sedation, so the patient will receive a general anesthetic before the treatments.  ECT produces small seizures, and side effects can be prohibitive, including loss of memory and mental confusion following the treatments.

Deep Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (dTMS)

The FDA initially approved Transcranial magnetic stimulation in 2008 for treating medication-resistant depression.  This was followed by the FDA approval in 2013 for deep TMS, a more advanced version of TMS.  Deep TMS uses an H-coil inside a comfortable helmet to administer magnetic pulses through the scalp to the limbic region (the mood center) of the brain.  These magnetic fields then stimulate the brain cells that have been sluggish, resulting in rebalanced brain chemistry.  Deep TMS requires no sedation and side effects are few or nonexistent.

About the Author

Anita Taylor is the Marketing Director of Achieve TMS East and has an undergraduate degree in psychology and a master’s degree in business administration. Achieve TMS East strives to improve the lives of patients through the use of the most advanced, scientifically proven technology.  Anita is proud to work with a dedicated team of professionals at Achieve TMS East who share a mission of providing quality care, in collaboration with community providers, to give hope to patients suffering from depression.