It can be difficult to explain to someone who’s never experienced it, but those who suffer from severe depression often describe an overwhelming sense of hopelessness and despair. What’s worse is that this serious condition can be resistant to treatment. Even when it seems like all available options have been tried, it can still leave sufferers feeling trapped in their own minds.
Fortunately, recent scientific advances have provided a glimmer of hope for those struggling with severe depression. Deep brain stimulation (DBS) has emerged as a potential treatment for severe depression and is currently being studied by researchers around the world, who seek to validate it as an effective treatment modality.
How It Works
Deep brain stimulation is a procedure that involves implanting a device in the brain that produces electrical signals which stimulate certain areas possibly linked to depression. DBS is similar to other forms of electrical stimulation already used to treat conditions such as Parkinson’s disease and epilepsy.
The idea behind using DBS to treat depression is that it could potentially reduce or even eliminate symptoms without the need for medications or other traditional treatments, such as psychotherapy or cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). While DBS has been studied extensively in animal models, human studies are still in their early stages and more research is needed before it can be considered a viable treatment option for the people who may need it most.
The safety and effectiveness of DBS for treating severe depression are still being evaluated by researchers, but early evidence suggests that it may make a positive difference for some patients. In one study published in 2016, 12 patients who had not responded to any other type of intervention saw significant improvements after receiving deep brain stimulation over the course of six months.
These results are promising, but they should not be interpreted as proof that deep brain stimulation would work universally well for everyone with severe depression. Just like any other form of treatment, deep brain stimulation comes with both risks and benefits and must always be evaluated on an individual basis; in other words, it must be determined whether DBS may be the most promising modality for a particular patient. For example, some patients may experience side effects such as headaches or dizziness after undergoing the procedure, while others may not see any improvement at all from the treatment.
Relief at Any Price
Due to its complexity and the specialized equipment required for its implementation, deep brain stimulation remains expensive. Despite this, medical centers around the world now offer it as an option in cases of treatment-refractory severe depression.
Deep brain stimulation has shown promising preliminary results when it comes to treating severe cases of depression that have resisted all other forms of traditional therapy or pharmaceutical interventions, yet much more research is needed before DBS can be considered a universally effective solution for all sufferers.
Whether their goal is to use deep brain stimulation to experience a momentary reprieve from the worst of their depression, or to attain lasting relief from this debilitating condition, patients must weigh their options carefully before deciding whether this cutting-edge approach is for them.