Many patients with depression suffer from persistent sleep disorders, coupled with feelings of burned-out and exhaustion. This does not mean that long sleep or vacations are helpful when trying to fight and treat depression. For example, a sleep deprivation therapy, as it is offered in many clinics nowadays, has proven to be very effective antidepressant measure.
Staying awake for an entire night or in the second half of the night may help patients who are recovering from depression. However, this only lasts until the next sleep, usually until the following night. However, experiencing that the depression, which has often been going on for months, can be broken by such a measure often gives those affected hope that their illness can be treated. Especially patients with melancholic depression and strong daily fluctuations benefit from the method.
In seasonal depression such as winter depression, light therapy can relieve symptoms. For this purpose, the physician prescribes therapeutic light of 10,000 lux brightness (“imitation” of sunlight) from special lamps for 30 to 40 minutes per day. However, the health insurance companies do not cover the costs in general. It is important for the effect of light therapy that it is applied consistently and correctly.
Antidepressants, psychotherapy, light therapy or staying awake through night: The possibilities to successfully treat depressive disorders are manifold. For the few sufferers, who nevertheless suffer from recurrent or very severe depression, so-called biological strategies are available; these are directed directly to the processes in the brain.
An effective therapy, which leads to a rapid relief of the symptoms, is the so-called electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), in which anesthetic seizures are triggered by current pulses. As patients "oversleep" during the procedure, this is not painful and not disturbing.
Since some patients may experience significant memory gaps after treatment, scientists are currently developing ECT for so-called magnetic convulsion therapy (MCT). Here, the healing spasms are triggered not by electricity, but by strong magnetic fields. So far, however, the procedure has only been used and tested in four centers worldwide in the context of clinical studies.
Also in a more experimental phase is the use of deep brain stimulation (DBS) for the treatment of major depression which cannot be treated by the usual therapies. DBS is a neurosurgical procedure involving the implantation of a medical device called a neurostimulator (also a 'brain pacemaker'), which sends electrical impulses, through implanted electrodes, to specific targets in the brain. DBS in select brain regions has provided therapeutic benefits not only for severe (major) depressive disorders but also for other treatment-resistant disorders such as Parkinson's disease, essential tremor, dystonia, chronic pain, and obsessive–compulsive disorder (OCD)
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