Depression and anxiety are some of the most common types of mental health disorders found in people today. Approximately 40 million US adults have an anxiety disorder and an estimated 16.1 million US adults are struggling with depression, with it being the number one cause of disability. Depression and anxiety are typically treated with medication or a type of therapy or a combination of both. However, if these methods have not worked for you then there are alternative treatments that you can try.
Overview of Depression and Anxiety
Major depressive disorder, also known as clinical depression, is a mood disorder that is recognized for causing a persistent feeling of sadness and a potential loss of interest in the things a person previously took joy in. Depression can cause several emotional and physical problems and can make it difficult for people to function in their daily lives, sometimes even leaving them bedridden. Aside from sadness, depression symptoms can manifest as guilt, hopelessness, apathy, irritability, restlessness, loss of interest in activities, insomnia, loss of appetite, inability to focus, and fatigue.
Anxiety is a normal response to stressful situations, such as public speaking, but the body can get trapped in the stress cycle and develop an anxiety problem. Anxiety is part of the body’s fight or flight response to what it perceives as danger and has a physiological effect as a coping mechanism. Anxiety can leave a person with intense and excessive levels of worry, rapid breathing, sweating, and feeling restless and tense. Anxiety attacks, which are sudden episodes of intense anxiety, can be a common occurrence. Anxiety can be a serious disruption to a person’s life and daily activities.
Many people can experience anxiety and depression together and both conditions usually require treatment for a person to get back to the sense of normalcy that they had before.
What are Alternative Treatments?
In cases of depression and anxiety, the standard practice is to prescribe antidepressants and psychotherapy. Alternative therapies for depression and anxiety are not considered to be first-line treatments and are usually referred to when a person does not respond well to medication and/or therapy. The good news is that there are several alternative treatments that have been shown to have a positive effect on people with depression and/or anxiety. Some alternative treatments have been FDA-approved specifically for treating depression.
Alternative Treatments for Depression and Anxiety
Usually, those with depression and anxiety are treated with a classification of medications known as antidepressants. One of the most common complaints of these medicines is the side effects and the way they leave a person feeling. Your depression and/or anxiety may also not respond well to an antidepressant. If that is the case, and talk therapy has not been effective either, then here are alternative treatments that you might look into.
IV Ketamine Infusion
Intravenous ketamine infusion therapy is a groundbreaking treatment used for a variety of psychiatric disorders and chronic pain conditions. Ketamine has been around for decades and was originally used as an anesthetic drug for soldiers around the 1960’s-1970’s. Now, IV ketamine infusions, that have removed the anesthetic component, have been found to be able to help relieve symptoms in severe cases of depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder.
The ketamine infusion is administered through a slow IV (a needle inserted into the vein) drip to deliver quick and long-lasting relief. The ketamine works by providing therapeutic effects to the areas of the brain that control mood. During the treatment, the patient is allowed to sit and relax while the medicine is slowly flowing into the body through the IV, and a sense of calm should kick in during treatment. Patients may notice an immediate difference, but it usually takes a few hours for the medicine to fully take effect and have a true, noticeable difference. The IV ketamine infusion is not considered a cure for depression or anxiety and will require further infusions on an as-needed basis to maintain the effects. However, it is not like typical antidepressants that have to be taken every day.
Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS)
Also known as TMS therapy, this treatment is a non-pharmacological option for depression and anxiety and is FDA-approved for depression. Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation is a noninvasive procedure that has been shown to be highly effective for treatment-resistant depression and some evidence supports its efficacy for anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder. TMS effects on anxiety does vary depending on a patient’s exact condition and the level of magnetic pulses, along with other factors.
TMS works by having an electromagnetic coil or cap placed on a patients head, near the forehead, which generates a magnetic field to create a small electrical current that pulses through the scalp. These electromagnetic pulses target a specific area of the brain that controls mood, which is mapped out before the procedure begins, and stimulates the nerve cells. This increases activity in that part of the brain, which is linked to contributing to depression, so that mood is lifted and depression symptoms cease. If anxiety is present along with depression, then anxiety symptoms should also improve with the depression symptoms.
Vagus Nerve Stimulation
While vagus nerve stimulation is primarily used to treat epilepsy, it was approved in 2005 by the FDA for treatment resistant depression. This is a surgical procedure where a pacemaker-like device is implanted in the body and is connected to a wire that threaded along the vagus nerve. The device send electrical pulses along the nerve to stimulate it for a set period of time. The stimulation seems to change brain waves and depression symptoms can be relieved.
Stellate Ganglion Blocks
This treatment is often used for chronic pain, but is also a treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder and related depression and anxiety symptoms. Stellate ganglion blocks, or SGB, is an injection of local anesthesia that is administered to the ganglion nerves. The ganglion nerves are part of the sympathetic nervous system, which are nerves that supply the arms and the face. The blocks disrupt sympathetic activity along these stellate ganglion and turns off the body’s fight or flight response, which allows the brain time to reset and escape the stress cycle so that PTSD and comorbid anxiety and depression symptoms cease.
This procedure uses fluoroscopy, which uses x-rays to create a real-time video, to help guide the healthcare professional so they will give the injection in the correct place. The effects should kick in within a half hour and the stellate ganglion becomes numb. The whole procedure takes maybe 15 minutes. SGB can help lower stress hormones from being produced, which contributes to anxiety and depression.
This is a brand name medication that is FDA approved to treat major depressive disorder and treatment resistant depression. Spravato contains esketamine and comes as a nasal spray. The dosage and how often it should be used will be determined by the prescribing doctor.
All of these treatments are painless and considered to be safe to use. If you have treatment resistant depression and/or anxiety then talk to your doctor about any possible alternative treatments that may work for you.
Our office at Gemini Health is happy to be offering alternative treatments for depression and anxiety, including stellate ganglion blocks as a new service, and want to work with you to help you get back to leading a happy, fulfilling life. We understand how important emotional health is and strive to assist you in achieving your goals. Our partnering office at Pain and Spine Specialists, who we collaborate with to provide patients chronic pain management, is also happy to work with you to give you access to these treatments.
Looking for Therapy Options?
If you are looking for therapy services for mental health concerns, or if you have any questions regarding our services, call Gemini Health today! Our highly skilled mental health professionals are experienced in treating various mental and behavioral health concerns. They offer both individual and group therapy. Plus, there are no wait times to join groups. Call (301) 363-1063 and speak to our staff to schedule your appointment today!