Exercise. As mentioned above, regular vigorous physical exercise is thought to have an antidepressant effect. Exercise offers many other benefits as well, including general improvements to your health and an opportunity to socialize (e.g., in a gym or with teammates), or to be alone (e.g., on a bike or solitary hike). Exercise is also a great way to distract yourself from your thoughts as the need to attend to the physical demands of what you are doing tend to drive out self-critical thinking (at least for a little while). Check with your doctor before starting a new physical exercise program just to make sure your body is up to handling it.
Another brain stimulation therapy, transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) involves a physician passing an electrical current through an insulated coil that is placed on the surface of the depression sufferer's scalp. That induces a brief magnetic field that can change the electrical flow of the brain that is effective in easing symptoms of depression or anxiety. TMS does not require anesthesia; doctors perform TMS for a few minutes per session, five times per week over the course of four to six weeks. Side effects are usually mild and fade quickly, including scalp discomfort or headaches. It is unusual for side effects to be severe enough to cause the recipient to stop treatment prematurely. Serious side effects are rare, including worsened depression, suicidal thoughts, or actions.
Depression can have a significant impact on the structure and function of many parts of the brain. This can result in many negative consequences. For example, people with severe depression are at higher risk of suffering from anxiety, chronic depression, other emotional issues, or having more medical problems or chronic pain. The trouble thinking (cognitive problems) that depression sufferers may experience can persist even after the illness resolves. People with a chronic illness, such as diabetes and heart disease, who also have depression tend to have worse outcome of their medical illness.
Not everyone who is depressed experiences every symptom. Some people experience only a few symptoms while others may experience many. Several persistent symptoms in addition to low mood are required for a diagnosis of major depression, but people with only a few – but distressing – symptoms may benefit from treatment of their “subsyndromal” depression. The severity and frequency of symptoms and how long they last will vary depending on the individual and his or her particular illness. Symptoms may also vary depending on the stage of the illness.
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