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If Nothing Else Helps, Keep These 6 Mental Health Treatments On Your Radar

Editor's Note

If you or a loved one is affected by addiction, the following post could be triggering. You can contact SAMHSA’s hotline at 1-800-662-4357.

Any medical information included is based on a personal experience. For questions or concerns regarding health, please consult a doctor or medical professional.

It’s wild to think that our understanding of the human mind and the treatment of mental disorders such as depression, anxiety, and schizophrenia is still in its relative infancy. After all, the first neurotransmitter was only discovered in the 1930s, and it took until the late 20th century for us to implement widespread reform in psychiatric hospitalization, or institutionalization.

Even now, our understanding of the mind is limited, such as in the case of treatment-resistant depression. Studies have found that treatment-resistant depression affects around 30% of people living with major depressive disorder (MDD), or around 230 million people worldwide. That’s the reality of almost one in three people living with depression: feeling potentially hopeless and betrayed by modern medicine.

However, there is hope. Medical and scientific advancements are being made all the time, including within psychology and psychopharmacology. Some treatments, such as electroconvulsive therapy, have been heavily stigmatized by misconception bred by Hollywood, but have existed for a long time to great success. Others are newer and are offered only on a small scale, through medical trials, or they are still being studied and understood. Today, I wanted to share just a few of these fascinating treatments with you. These alternate and upcoming treatments offer us a hopeful glimpse at the potential future for not only depression treatment, but also trauma, anxiety, and mental health recovery as a whole. If psychiatric medication isn’t working for you, here’s what could be next.

1. CBD Oil

From treating chronic pain to epilepsy, CBD — also known as cannabidiol, one of two components of cannabis alongside tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) — may also have applications in treating mental illnesses such as depression and bipolar disorder. While THC is responsible for the “high” of cannabis, CBD appears to have a positive effect on serotonin in the brain according to a study from 2014. Check out the following articles from our community for more information.

2. Psilocybin (Magic Mushrooms)

I’ll be the first to admit my surprise at the psychedelic substance psilocybin, found in “magic mushrooms,” being a potential mental health treatment; after all, I grew up hearing about the danger of “magic mushrooms” as a street drug. However, research has shown that psilocybin may have clinical potential in the treatment of suicidal ideation, depression, anxiety, OCD, and PTSD. Psilocybin-assisted therapy has also been investigated as a potential treatment option. Check out the following articles from our community, including a writer who took part in a recent clinical trial for psilocybin.

3. Ketamine

Ketamine is another surprising treatment emerging from recreational drug use. It has a fascinating history, though the short version is this: in people with depression, there appears to be an abnormality in the brain’s glutamatergic system. Ketamine directly targets this system, which stimulates the formation of new neural connections. In essence, this helps the brain to heal. Research shows around 60% of people with treatment-resistant depression respond favorably to ketamine, which is offered typically through infusions or nasal spray alongside therapy. Check out the following articles, where we also checked in on two Mighty writers two years after their ketamine treatments.

4. Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS)

Transcranial magnetic stimulation is a long-standing non-invasive treatment that uses magnetic fields to stimulate electrical current in certain nerve cells in the brain, which can then improve depression symptoms. Unlike electroconvulsive therapy, it doesn’t require anesthesia and has few side effects, mainly consisting of headaches during and after treatment. Check out some of our stories from those who have received this treatment below.

5. Accelerated Theta Burst rTMS and Intermittent theta-burst stimulation (iTBS)

A modified form of repetitive TMS (rTMS), where magnetic pulses are delivered in a specific pattern matching part of the brain’s functions, accelerated theta burst rTMS offers shorter sessions with similar benefits to traditional TMS, as noted above. This form of TMS is still being studied, but a recent Stanford University study called Stanford Accelerated Intelligent Neuromodulation Therapy (SAINT) offers hope, being given a “breakthrough” status by the FDA. Read more below.

6. Vagus Nerve Stimulation (VNS)

Also used in the treatment of epilepsy, VNS involves an implanted device that is connected to the left vagus nerve in the neck, stimulating the nerve with electrical impulses. However, a noninvasive variant of the device has been approved for trial in Europe. Early trials have shown this to be effective for treatment-resistant depression, including a 17% remission rate after 10 weeks. A Mighty contributor recently revealed their participation in a five-year clinical trial study for VNS, which you can read about below.


 

These treatments offer hope beyond antidepressants and existing therapeutic models, but it’s important to note that they are in many cases still being studied. If you’re curious about any of them for the treatment of mental illness, please talk to your doctor and insurer. Regardless, it’s promising to note that scientific advancements are always coming, and the next breakthrough treatment for mental illness could be just around the corner.

Would you try any of the above treatments for mental illness? Let us know in the comments below!

Getty Images photo via 24K-Production

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