Up to three percent of those who are clinically depressed will die by suicide this year. Among young people, the suicide rate has increased significantly in the last few decades. Suicide was the third leading cause of death in 15-24 year-olds in 1997. Even people who are not deeply depressed can struggle regularly with sad feelings and mood swings. Clearly, depression is a very serious issue.
Unfortunately, for many years, people suffering from depression were hesitant to seek help, fearing that the stigma of psychiatric treatment would only add to their list of troubles. All too often, their concerns proved to be warranted. In 1972, Senator Thomas Eagleton’s admission of having been treated for depression cost him the candidacy for vice-president.
Two treatments for depression use electricity in interesting ways. These treatments are often sought after because they do not involve medications, which can have some very unpleasant side effects. These two treatments are electroconvulsive shock therapy, or ECT, and neurofeedback therapy. ECT was widely used to treat depression only a few decades ago. If you have seen the movie “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” you will no doubt remember the graphic scene where Randall Patrick McMurphy (played by Jack Nicholson) received ECT.
While not as popular as it once was, approximately one million people every year are still treated with this method. Patients undergoing ECT have to be put under general anesthesia, which comes with risks including memory loss and confusion. Moreover, ECT is usually only effective for a short while; in fact, a 2004 study showed that only 30% of ECT patients saw an improvement in their symptoms, and of those patients, 64% would relapse in less than a year.
One of the most exciting things about neurofeedback for depression (aside from the fact it works so well for many people) is that it is free of the burdensome side effects of some of the other treatments available. If you have not heard of neurofeedback yet, you may have heard of biofeedback, which uses signals from the body to help the client to know when something has gone wrong, so they can begin addressing the problem. Neurofeedback therapy is based on the same principle as biofeedback. It also uses signals, but these originate in the brain.
Using these signals, neurofeedback attempts to retrain the brain to function normally. It is effective with over half of depression patients, no matter what the cause of their depression, whether trauma, genetic anomaly or another cause, and regardless of how long they’ve been depressed.
What’s more, the retraining that neurofeedback accomplishes may last for years. Although this new form of treatment still needs a few more long-term studies done, many scientists and therapists believe that the changes that neurofeedback causes in the brain will last for many years. Just think about never having to use medication or deal with a depression relapse again!
If you have depression or know someone who is struggling with…