When most people have major depression, they resort to visiting a psychologist or psychiatrist to help determine the underlying causes. In many cases, there is no external cause for the depression so it is deemed to be genetic or the result of a “chemical imbalance.” Many antidepressants attempt to treat a chemical imbalance with the neurotransmitter Serotonin, while others influence Norepinephrine and Dopamine. Some individuals try medication after medication with no relief, so after awhile, they start to wonder about other alternative treatments.
Below I’ve highlighted 3 of the newer, high tech ways some doctors are treating depression. Although these are newer methods that don’t involve the use of drugs, not everyone responds the same to these types of treatments.
3 New High Tech Ways to Treat Depression without Drugs
1. Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS)
One of the newest, most effective treatments for depression is Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation, commonly abbreviated TMS. This method of treatment uses electromagnets to depolarize or hyperpolarize neurons in the brain. The electrical currents with this treatment are generally considered to be weak, but very effective with little discomfort. This has become one of the more popular, newer treatments for depression and is also used in some cases of migraine headaches, strokes, and even Parkinson’s disease to help those affected.
Due to the effectiveness of TMS, it has been taken to a new level in rTMS or “repeated TMS” in order to help those with severe depression. Studies have shown it to be fairly effective, but not as effective as the hype would lead you to believe. In a major meta-analysis of TMS and ECT, it was actually found to be less effective than ECT (electro convulsive therapy), but did have less side effects.
It should be noted that TMS has been FDA approved for the treatment of depression. If you are interested in this treatment option, you can always look it up and read more about it. Trust me, just because it’s new doesn’t mean that it’s a savior or anything to get excited about. However, it may work if you don’t respond to anything else.
Pros: Newer. Unique type of treatment. It really helps certain individuals that don’t respond to medication.
Cons: It may not work at all. Could result in some side effects (i.e. seizures).
Neurofeedback is perhaps most common in the treatment of attention deficit disorders. The goal of this sort of treatment is to train your brain to produce healthy brain waves in specific brain regions. For example, in some people with depression, there is a significant amount of slow brain wave activity (e.g. theta waves) where there should be faster brain waves (i.e. beta waves). Electrodes would be places on the scalp at specific points of interest on the outside of the scalp.
Once the electrodes are configured, the brain wave entrainment process would begin. The goal is to correct the brain wave rhythms so that they match that of a non depressed individual. There have been plenty of studies in this area, but more research needs to be conducted in regards to helping depressed individuals with this therapy.
Should you decide to give this method a shot, you would want to contact a licensed neurofeedback professional and schedule a consultation. Typically an EEG is taken to determine which areas of the brain need to be uptrained or downtrained in frequency for optimal functioning.
Pros: Can work extremely well for certain people. May have a long lasting effect.
Cons: Not as effective for depression as ADD or ADHD. Can be expensive. If it doesn’t work it may seem like an utter disappointment or waste of time.
3. Brainwave Entrainment
One method of treating depression that has caught the attention of those into brain waves is that of brainwave entrainment. It is true that in cases of depression there are typically slower brain waves than in individuals without depression. Although neurofeedback is more direct at determining specific problems with brain waves, entrainment can be an effective supplemental treatment.
Unlike neurofeedback though, entrainment involves using an audio, visual or audio-visual stimulus to alter brain waves throughout the entire brain. Neurofeedback is more specific, targeted, and more natural than entrainment, but entrainment can be effective. The process typically involves an external stimulus such as two tones played in order to shift brain wave activity within a certain frequency range.
For example, a depressed person may have too much theta activity in the left hemisphere of their brain. In order to address this issue, some entrainment experts would suggest using isochronic tones (more effective than binaural beats and monaural beats) with mid-range beta frequencies (i.e. around 18 Hz).
Pros: May be very effective. Can provide temporary relief. Available to try for free online.
Cons: Not well researched. Not for seizure-prone individuals.