The following treatments for depression are used to augment other therapies. Some, like electro convulsive therapy (ECT), are highly controversial. Others, like St. John’s Wort, appear to have a positive effect on mild cases, but do nothing for severe depression.
St. John’s Wort
St. John’s Wort has been used in Europe for years as an herbal remedy for mild cases of depression. German doctors regularly prescribe it. It has relatively few side effects, although it cannot be used to treat major depression.
St. John’s Wort should not be taken in conjunction with prescription antidepressants, as symptoms may actually worsen. It also has adverse reactions with some drugs used to prevent rejection of transplanted organs and some HIV treatments.
Consult your doctor before trying St. John’s Wort.
Electro Convulsive Therapy (ECT)
Developed in the 1930s, ECT was originally used to treat a wide variety of mental disorders. Opponents of ECT consider it dangerous. They point to possible side effects including sleep disturbances, memory problems, confusion, and possible long-term brain damage.
ECT is still used to treat chronic major depression, with some success. One theory suggests that the small electric charges sent to the brain stimulate the brain’s neurotransmitters.
In spite of its bad reputation, ECT remains a viable alternative for patients who don’t respond to more conventional treatments for depression.
One of the older antidepressant medications, lithium is most often used to treat bipolar disorder (manic depression). Lithium can affect kidney and liver function, and has a long list of other possible side effects.
However, if other antidepressants fail to work, lithium is a viable alternative.
Seasonal Affective Disorder and Phototherapy
Seasonal affective disorder, also known as SAD, occurs when lack of natural light during the winter causes depression.
Phototherapy is used to treat seasonal affective disorder. Phototherapy simply involves using lights that duplicate natural light to stimulate the brain.