There are a number of non-drug treatments that may help relieve depression or bipolar disorder.
Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT)
In the 1930s, electroconvulsive therapy was noted to improve severe depression. The therapy was based on the mistaken notion that people with epilepsy did not get depressed, perhaps because of the repeated convulsions they experienced. At the
time electroconvulsive therapy was first developed, few treatments were available for depressive illness.
Since antidepressants became available in 1959, ECT has been used less. However, it works well for some types of illness, and is particularly useful in certain conditions. If you are psychotically depressed with terrifying delusions and hallucinations, if you are determinedly suicidal, if you are severely debilitated from malnutrition, if you have heart disease, or if you are pregnant and can’t take medications, it may be your best choice. The procedure is physically safe and works much more rapidly than antidepressants.
The person is given muscle relaxants and anaesthesia. Then an electrical impulse is administered to the skin of the skull to induce a seizure. The electrical impulse may be delivered to one side of the brain, the non-dominant hemisphere, to minimize memory loss. Treatments are usually given about twice a week over a three-week or five-week period. Depression Symptoms start to improve by the second or third treatment.
Opposition to the use of electroconvulsive therapy has been heated during the last few decades. The procedure sounds alarming in an era when pills are expected to cure everything. Consumer groups saw ECT as an assaultive and hurtful procedure and worked to have it abolished as a form of treatment. The National Institute for Clinical Excellence produces regular advice on the modes of administration and an audit of effectiveness, both from hospitals and patient groups.
However, there is strong evidence that ECT ( Electroconvulsive Therapy ) is an effective and life-saving procedure when appropriately used.
Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation
This newer and less invasive method of electrostimulation was developed recently as an alternative to ECT. It’s still in the investigative stage, but seems to have possibilities for treating depression or bipolar disorder safely.
During positron emission tomography (PET), a type of diagnostic scan that shows the activity of the brain, it was noted that depressive patients had less blood flow to the frontal lobes of the brain than non-depressive people. When a low-level electrical current is applied to the left side of the head in the frontal area, once a day for two weeks, the blood flow to the area increases, and the depression improves.
When someone is exposed to repeated stresses, the body’s steroid hormones, which are produced by the adrenal gland in response to stress, may become depleted. This depletion can lead to depression. Hydrocortisone, a form of steroid, can be injected to correct this situation, leading to a 50 per cent improvement in symptoms almost immediately.