Lets Talk About Depression: From a Brief History to Current Treatments

person outside facing depression

Depression can cause difficulties in all aspects of life, including in the community and at home, work and school. If you or someone you know needs support now, call or text 988, or chat 988lifeline.org

Depression History: From the first appearance to early treatments

Depression is a common and serious medical illness that negatively affects how you feel, the way you think and how you act. Depression causes feelings of sadness and or a loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed. Depression was initially called “melancholia”. The earliest accounts of melancholia appeared in ancient Mesopotamian texts in the second millennium B.C.

Treatments during the late 19th and early 20th centuries were usually inadequate for people with severe depression. As a result, many desperate people were treated with a lobotomy. First introduced in the 1930s, this highly traumatic brain procedure was once seen as a miracle cure for mental illness such as depression. The procedure eventually became less popular largely thanks to negative press and the growing availability of antidepressants and antipsychotics. Today, the procedure is banned in many countries and no longer performed in the United States.

Current state of depression: Who is affected and what are the causes

Depression affects an estimated one in 15 adults (6.7%) in any given year. And one in six (16.6%) will experience depression at some time in their life. Approximately 4.4% of children in the United States have depression.

Depression can occur at any time, but on average, first appears during the late teens to mid-20’s. Women are nearly twice as likely than men to experience depression.

Several factors can play a role in depression, this includes biochemistry, genetics, personality, and environmental factors such as continuous exposure to violence, neglect, abuse or poverty. A combination of risk factors that includes both one’s environment (nurture) and genes (nature) is necessary for someone to develop depression, one is not more important than the other. Although certain genes can increase someone’s risk of developing depression, inheriting one does not guarantee you will develop the condition. If you inherit a gene associated with depression and are exposed to certain situations or trauma in your life, you may be more susceptible to developing depression.

Multiple studies conducted throughout the years reveal that inherited genes play an important role in the development of depression. However, there is no one gene that, when inherited, significantly increases the risk of depression. Several genes have a small influence on the development of depression.

Current Depression Treatments

People with depression benefit from many different types of treatment. Some treatments include medication, psychotherapy including Individual therapy, group therapy, and CBT, Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), and self care. There are also things you can do at home to help improve depression symptoms, including getting regular exercise, getting quality sleep, eating a healthy diet, avoiding alcohol, and spending time with people you care about.

Another treatment for depression is ketamine therapy. Ketamine is a new and effective option with a rapid onset of action. Conventional pharmacotherapy usually takes several weeks to improve symptoms of depression where as ketamine has a more rapid result as soon as one week. Ketamine doesn’t remain in the system very long, yet research shows that people treated with it feel relief in the days and weeks after they stop taking it.

  • American Psychiatry Association (n.d.). What is depression? https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/depression/what-is-depression
  • Lohoff FW. Overview of the genetics of major depressive disorder. Curr Psychiatry Rep. 2010;12 (6):539-546. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3077049/. Accessed September 28, 2020
  • Vasavada MM, Leaver AM, Espinoza RT, Joshi SH, Njau SN, Woods RP, et al. Structural connectivity and response to ketamine therapy in major depression: A preliminary study. J Affect Disord. 2016;190:836–41.

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