Allopathic treatment

Depression is usually treated with antidepressants and/or psychosocial therapy. When used together correctly, therapy and antidepressants are a powerful treatment plan for the depressed patient.

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), such as fluoxetine (Prozac) and sertraline (Zoloft), reduce depression by increasing levels of serotonin, a neurotransmitter. Some clinicians prefer SSRIs for treatment of dysthymic disorder. Anxiety, diarrhea, drowsiness, headache, sweating, nausea, poor sexual functioning, and insomnia are all possible side effects of SSRIs.

Tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs) are less expensive than SSRIs, but have more severe side effects including persistent dry mouth , sedation, dizziness, and cardiac arrhythmias. Because of these side effects, caution is taken when prescribing TCAs to elderly patients. TCAs include amitriptyline (Elavil), imipramine (Tofranil), and nortriptyline (Aventyl, Pamelor). Since a 10-day supply of TCAs can be lethal if ingested all at once, so these drugs may not be a preferred treatment option for patients at risk for suicide.

Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAO inhibitors), such as tranylcypromine (Parnate) and phenelzine (Nardil), block the action of monoamine oxidase (MAO), an enzyme in the central nervous system. Patients taking MAOIs must avoid foods high in tyramine (found in aged cheeses and meats) to avoid potentially serious hypertensive side effects.

Heterocyclics include bupropion (Wellbutrin) and trazodone (Desyrel). Bupropion are prescribed to patients with a seizure disorders. Side effects include agitation, anxiety, confusion, tremor, dry mouth, fast or irregular heartbeat, headache, low blood pressure, and insomnia. Because trazodone has a sedative effect, it is useful in treating depressed patients with insomnia. Other possible side effects of trazodone include dry mouth, gastrointestinal distress, dizziness, and headache.

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Orthomolecular therapy

Orthomolecular therapy refers to therapy that strives to achieve the optimal chemical environment for the brain. The theory behind this approach is that mental disease is caused by low concentrations of specific chemicals. Linus believed that mental disease was caused by low concentrations of the B vitamins, biotin, vitamin C , or folic acid . Supplementation with vitamins B1, B2, and B6 improved the symptoms of depression in geriatric patients taking tricyclic antidepressants. The amino acids tryptophan, tyrosine, and phenylalanine have been shown to have positive effects on depression, although large, controlled studies need to be carried out to confirm these findings.

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Chinese medicine and herbals

The principle of treatment of depression involves regulating qi, reducing phlegm, calming the mind, and promoting mental resuscitation. The Chinese medicine Bai (White Metal Pill) is used to treat depression (5 g twice daily). A practitioner may prescribe a variety of treatments–including lifestyle changes–depending on the type and severity of the depression.

There is some evidence that acupuncture is an helpful treatment for depression. One double-blind study found that patients who received acupuncture specific for depression were significantly less depressed than control patients who had either nonspecific acupuncture or no treatment.

St. John’s wort (Hypericum perforatum) is the most widely used antidepressant in Germany. Many studies on the effectiveness of St. John’s wort have been performed. One review of the studies determined that St. John’s wort is superior to placebo and comparable to conventional antidepressants. As of early 2000, well designed studies comparing the effectiveness of St. John’s wort versus conventional antidepressants in treating depression are being performed in the United States. Although St. John’s wort appears to be a safe alternative to conventional antidepressants, care should be taken, as the herb can interfere with the actions of some pharmaceuticals. The usual dose is 300 mg three times daily.

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Psychosocial therapy

Psychotherapy explores a persons life to bring forth possible contributing causes of depression. During treatment, the therapist helps the patient to become aware of his or her thinking patterns and how they originated. There are several different subtypes of psychotherapy, but all have the common goal of helping the patient develop healthy problem solving and coping skills.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy assumes that the patient’s faulty thinking is causing the current depression and focuses on changing thought patterns and perceptions. The therapist helps the patient identify negative or distorted thought patterns and the emotions and behavior that accompany them, and then retrains the patient to recognize the thinking and react differently to it.

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The guidelines for diagnosis of major depressive disorder and dysthymic disorder are found in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition (DSM IV). In addition to an interview, several clinical inventories or scales may be used to assess a patient’s mental status and determine the presence of depressive symptoms. Among these tests are: the Hamilton Depression Scale (HAM-D), Child Depression Inventory (CDI), Geriatric Depression Scale (GDS), Beck Depression Inventory (BDI), and the Zung Self-Rating Scale for Depression. These tests may be administered in an outpatient or hospital setting by a general practitioner, social worker, psychiatrist, or psychologist.

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A variety of alternative medicines have proven to be helpful in treating depression. Regular exercise is a very effective treatment for mild cases. Chocolate, coffee, sugar, and alcohol can negatively affect mood and should be avoided. Essential fatty acids may reduce depression and boost mood. Expressing thoughts and feelings in a journal is therapeutic. Aromatherapy, particularly citrus fragrance, has had a positive effect on depression. Psychotherapy or counseling is an integral component of treatment because it can find and treat the cause of the depression.

Dysthymic disorder

Dysthymia commonly occurs in tandem with other psychiatric and physical conditions. Up to 70% of dysthymic patients have both dysthymic disorder and major depressive disorder, known as double depression. Substance abuse, panic disorders, personality disorders, social phobias, and other psychiatric conditions are also found in many dysthymic patients. Dysthymia is prevalent in patients with certain medical conditions, including multiple sclerosis , AIDS, hypothyroidism, chronic fatigue syndrome , Parkinson’s disease , diabetes, and postcardiac transplantation. The connection between dysthymic disorder and these medical conditions is unclear, but it may be related to the way the medical condition and/or its pharmacological treatment affects neurotransmitters. Dysthymic disorder can lengthen or complicate the recovery of patients also suffering from medical conditions.

Along with an underlying feeling of depression, people with dysthymic disorder experience two or more of the following symptoms on an almost daily basis for a period for two or more years (most suffer for five years), or one year or more for children:

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* under or overeating
* insomnia or hypersomnia
* low energy or fatigue
* low self-esteem
* poor concentration or trouble making decisions
* altered libido
* altered appetite
* altered motivation
* feelings of hopelessness

Causes & symptoms

The causes behind depression are complex and not yet fully understood. While an imbalance of certain neurotransmitters, the chemicals in the brain that transmit messages between nerve cells, is believed to be key to depression, external factors such as upbringing (more so in dysthymia than major depression) may be as important. For example, it is speculated that, if an individual is abused and neglected throughout childhood and adolescence, a pattern of low self-esteem and negative thinking may emerge, and from that, a lifelong pattern of depression may follow.

Heredity does seem to play a role in who develops depression. Individuals with major depression in their immediate family are up to three times more likely to have the disorder themselves. It would seem that biological and genetic factors may make certain individuals predisposed or prone to depressive disorders, but environmental circumstances may often trigger the disorder.

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External stressors and significant life changes, such as chronic medical problems, death of a loved one, divorce or estrangement, miscarriage, or loss of a job can also result in a form of depression known as adjustment disorder. Although periods of adjustment disorder usually resolve themselves, occasionally they may evolve into a major depressive disorder.

Depression part2

While major depressive episodes may be acute (intense but short-lived), dysthymic disorder is an ongoing, chronic depression that lasts two or more years (one or more years in children) and has an average duration of 16 years. The mild to moderate depression of dysthymic disorder may rise and fall in intensity, and those afflicted with the disorder may experience some periods of normal, nondepressed mood of up to two months in length. Its onset is gradual, and dysthymic patients may not be able to pinpoint exactly when they started feeling depressed. Individuals with dysthymic disorder may experience a change in sleeping and eating patterns, low self-esteem, fatigue, trouble concentrating, and feelings of hopelessness.

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Depression can also occur in bipolar disorder , an affective mental illness that causes radical emotional changes and mood swings, from manic highs to depressive lows. The majority of bipolar individuals experience alternating episodes of mania and depression.


Everyone experiences feelings of unhappiness and sadness occasionally. However, when these depressed feelings start to dominate everyday life without a recent loss or trauma and cause physical and mental deterioration, they become what is known as depression. Each year in the United States, depression affects an estimated 17 million people at an approximate annual direct and indirect cost of $53 billion. One in four women is likely to experience an episode of severe depression in her lifetime, with a 10-20% lifetime prevalence, compared to 5-10% for men. The average age a first depressive episode occurs is in the mid-20s, although the disorder strikes all age groups indiscriminately, from children to the elderly.

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There are two main categories of depression: major depressive disorder and dysthymic disorder. Major depressive disorder is a moderate to severe episode of depression lasting two or more weeks. Individuals experiencing this major depressive episode may have trouble sleeping, lose interest in activities in which they once took pleasure, experience a change in weight, have difficulty concentrating, feel worthless and hopeless, or have a preoccupation with death or suicide. In children, major depression may appear as irritability.