Depressed? Drug-free treatments can make life enjoyable again

(BPT) - The cloud of depression darkens many lives, affecting 300 million people around the world, according to the World Health Organization.

While antidepressant medication works for some depression sufferers, research is increasingly revealing what those suffering from depression have said for years: Medication is not a one-size-fits-all treatment.

In fact, a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association reveals that a startling 4.5 million people in the U.S. who suffer from depression don’t benefit from prescription antidepressants.

The good news is that research is uncovering new ways to treat depression without drugs and without invasive procedures, helping sufferers break free from the clutch of depression.

Magnetic pulses to the brain bring drug-free relief

One proven yet lesser-known treatment, called transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), has become an effective tool in bringing relief to thousands of depression sufferers.

TMS is prescribed by a doctor to treat major depressive disorder, especially when sufferers do not experience relief from prescription medication. In fact, the American Psychiatric Association recommends TMS as a second line of treatment.

How TMS works: The patient has magnetic pulses delivered to specific areas of the brain that are underactive during depression. Brain activity is reduced in depression, but TMS can help wake up asleep neurons. This treatment is drug-free and completely noninvasive, unlike electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). During the treatment, the patient is awake and alert sitting in a spa-like chair, and can resume daily activities afterward.

The results: Clinical trials performed with NeuroStar(R) Advanced Therapy have shown that a full 58 percent of people have responded positively to the treatment, reporting significant improvement in their depression symptoms. What’s even more astounding is that 37 percent saw full remission after their TMS treatment with NeuroStar, according to a Brown University study by Dr. Linda Carpenter, published in the Depression and Anxiety Journal in 2012. It treats depression at the source because of the precision of these magnetic pulses, making it effective exactly where it needs to be.

What about side effects?: With TMS, people don’t suffer the side effects they experience with medication. In fact, the side effects from NeuroStar are associated with mild pain or discomfort at the treatment site, which typically goes away after the first week of treatment.

Back in 2008, the FDA cleared NeuroStar as the first TMS treatment for major depressive disorder in the U.S., and in recent years it has become more accessible to patients.

For one, NeuroStar is widely reimbursed by most commercial and government health plans, including Medicare and Tricare. In fact, more than 300 million patients have insurance policies that cover NeuroStar through their health plans.

In tandem with that, there are more TMS systems in doctors’ offices and clinics across the U.S. Nearly 800 physicians nationwide are delivering transformative therapy with NeuroStar every day.

Life changes can also help keep the brain in balance

Doing your part to work with the treatment and supplementing it with a healthy lifestyle will only help your progress. In addition to clinical solutions and treatments, research has also found that some lifestyle changes can be helpful for mood and mind balance.

Keep a positive outlook: Research shows that optimism can affect health and well-being. Don't lose hope in your struggle with depression and practice positivity. Tried and true methods, such as acts of kindness or keeping a gratitude journal, can lift some of the clouds.

Try something new: The Mayo Clinic cites trying new things as one of the habits of highly healthy people. New perspectives and experiences can be good for you, as trying new things can lead to increased confidence and self-esteem. Not all change is bad and you may surprise yourself.

Surround yourself with a strong support network: Many studies show that social support is important to maintain physical and mental health. In building your support system, connect with people you trust and who have your best interests in mind.

Sit outside and experience nature: Exposure to sunlight has been found to improve moods and serves as a mental health benefit. Additionally, Stanford University reveals that spending time outdoors may reduce the risk of depression.

Eat a healthy diet: Research shows that a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids, B vitamins and magnesium are all linked to improving depression symptoms, either by keeping brain chemistry in balance or enhancing mood.

Practice yoga: Research indicates a regular yoga practice can do a lot for both depression and anxiety. It not only helps you manage your body’s stress response systems, it also enhances mood and promotes relaxation.

Get moving: For some people, regular exercise is highly effective in staving off depression. In fact, people who are physically fit are less likely to receive a diagnosis of depression.

Depression brings a sense of dread and inertia to many areas of life, hitting your mood and energy level especially hard. The good news is that there are effective treatments for depression. By trying some of the above lifestyle changes and working with your doctor, you could find one that brings your world back into alignment, lifting those dark clouds and making life enjoyable again.