Depression is perhaps the most common mental health problem in the world. While the disorder was overlooked for many years (sufferers were told that it was "all in their head" and that they should "snap out of it") is now firmly established as a measurable and treatable mental illness. While it is impossible to get a true measurement of the scope of depressive disorders since many sufferers either do not seek treatment or are misdiagnosed, it has been estimated that somewhere between fifteen and twenty percent of all adults suffer from some form of a disorder on the depression mental illness spectrum.
Fortunately for sufferers, there are now a number of successful depression treatment options, both medical and psychological, that can help even the most afflicted individual emerge from the darkness. Perhaps the greatest revolution in the treatment of depressive disorders has been the development of increasingly sophisticated and targeted depression medication treatments. The field was revolutionized when scientists and health care professional realized that, in many cases, depressive disorders are caused not just by latent psychological difficulties, but can also have a biochemical component. The culprit was eventually narrowed to a class of chemicals known as neurotransmitters, which are substances that assist in the propagation of electrical charge down neural pathways. The first class of drugs to treat depressive disorders was the Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors (MAOIs) which prevented the body from breaking down many different neurotransmitters in the brain. Since MAOIs target a number of neurotransmitters, not just the select few that are believed to be responsible for depression, they can have many side effects and drug interactions and are often viewed as a sledgehammer approach to treatment.
Slightly more recent, but still outdated by modern standards, are the tricyclic antidepressants, which also work on a number of different neurotransmitters. The side effects of both MAOIs and tricyclics can be difficult and may include dizziness, mild hallucinations, stomach upset, constipation, and other problems. However, for many sufferers, the side effects are far less severe than the actual condition. The newest and most effective form of medical depression help is the class of drugs known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). SSRIs selectively prevent the reuptake of the neurotransmitter serotonin, the most important neurotransmitter in the treatment of depressive disorders (though some medical professionals believe that dopamine plays a similarly important role). Since SSRIs only target one particular chemical, the side effects that they engender are much less severe than what occur with MAOIs and tricyclic antidepressant medications.
While medical treatments of depression have been a boon to many sufferers, there is a still a place for psychological depression treatment therapies. Many times, the disorder is caused by underlying psychological factors instead of chemical causes. Traditional treatments such psychoanalysis and other forms of "talk therapy" are still used successfully to treat depressive conditions. There are also a number of theories that stipulate that depressive disorders are caused by dietary imbalances, and advocate the use of supplements to bring the disorder under control.
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