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Why is there No Cure for Depression?

Updated: Aug 13, 2023



Although advances in medical science have found cures for many physical diseases, there are no known cures for many mental health conditions. Depression, Anxiety, Bipolar Disorder and more are conditions that people will suffer with over the course of their lifetimes. It can be debilitating to suffer with this type of condition, and more research needs to be done to find a cure.


Some may argue that not enough funding has been put towards mental health research. There are new studies constantly underway to help advance the treatment of depression, and to look for a cure.


Available treatments for depression - including pharmacotherapy, evidence-based psychotherapy, and electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) - are effective in reducing symptoms in the majority of patients with an acute depressive episode, and the combination of these treatments may be more efficacious than individual treatments alone.5 However, up to 40% of patients continue to have clinically significant symptoms despite optimized treatment,6 and up to 20% of patients may show little to no response to the most aggressive management (including the use of ECT).7-9 Even for patients who do respond to treatment, the illness tends to be highly recurrent, with up to 80% of patients experiencing at least one subsequent episode.10 Psychotherapy and/or maintenance antidepressant medications may substantially decrease the risk of relapse but do not eliminate it.

This is a huge struggle for those of us who have depression. No matter how hard we work in therapy, and take our medications daily, we are still likely to come face to face with depression symptoms again and again. Some patients even have treatment resistant depression, and don't get better despite going through psychiatric care for depression.


Since so many people worldwide are suffering with depression, finding a cure for this disease is important for the betterment of society. People with depression often have trouble functioning normally during a depressive episode, and many will contemplate or attempt suicide.


There have been many tests done in clinical research to find a gene for depression, or to find where the depressive response is triggered in the brain. However, answers have yet to be found, and this is part of the problem with finding a cure for depression.


Huffpost argues that there can be no cure for depression because it is an evolutionary response that does serve some function, but it has become wildly out of whack in our modern society:


How will we better contain depression? Expect no magic pill. One lesson learned from treating chronic pain is that it is tough to override responses that are hardwired into the body and mind. Instead, we must follow the economy of mood where it leads, attending to the sources that bring so many into low mood states -- think routines that feature too much work and too little sleep. We need broader mood literacy and an awareness of tools that interrupt low mood states before they morph into longer and more severe ones. These tools include altering how we think, the events around us, our relationships, and conditions in our bodies (by exercise, medication, or diet).

They argue that stressful lifestyles are one of the main causes of depression, and things like moving house or starting a new job can trigger depression. Other stressful life events like losing a loved one can bring on a depressive episode as well. Since depression is happening in response to external events, it may be difficult to prevent altogether.


Since currently depression cannot be cured, patients like me who are suffering from depression will still have to work through therapy and lifestyle to bring our condition under control for the foreseeable future.


Treatment for Depression


The most commonly used treatments for depression include a combination of talk therapy and anti-depressant medication. The problem with this is that although many anti-depressant medications are available, there is a low rate of effectiveness for these type of drugs, and many times patients will have to switch anti-depressants several times to find something that works for them.


In addition to therapy and medications, some doctors will also recommend brain stimulation that has to be administered in a hospital or clinic as well. According to Healthline, these include:

  • Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). This treatment delivers electrical impulses to the brain to trigger a seizure, which changes electrical activity in your brain. You’ll be anesthetized during the procedure, so you won’t feel anything at all. Keep in mind that modern ECT is very different from the “shock therapy” administered in the mid-20th century.

  • Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS). Also called repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS), this treatment delivers magnetic impulses to your brain, which is believed to help stimulate nerves in the brain and increase brain activity.

  • Vagus nerve stimulation. This treatment, which stimulates your vagus nerve through a device implanted in your chest, is believed to help restore the balance of brain chemicals linked to depression.

This type of therapy may be recommended if you have depression for a long time and it isn't going away using a combination of therapy and medication. Also, there is research ongoing into new therapies all the time, these may become more widely available in the future.


If you are suffering from depression, your therapist will likely also recommend changing your lifestyle so that you are less stressed, and less likely to be triggered into a depressive episode. Managing your lifestyle can have a powerful, positive effect on your depression. However, this can feel difficult to maintain at times.


According to Medical News Today, some lifestyle factors that can help with depression are:

  • keeping a diary to track thoughts and feelings

  • exercising regularly

  • adopting a healthful diet and drinking plenty of fluids

  • practicing mindfulness

  • talking to friends, family, or a support group

  • avoiding tobacco, alcohol, and recreational drugs

  • keeping to a routine

  • setting achievable goals

  • finding a hobby or trying something new

  • taking on manageable responsibility or volunteering

When you get your lifestyle on track and maintain healthy habits, it can be easier to keep your depression at bay. However, this always does require some work on your part. Making sure to take care of yourself, and practicing self-care is critical for healing with any mental illness like depression.


Conclusion


Although there is currently no cure for depression, more research is being done all the time to find better treatments. Hopefully one day it will be easier for those of us with depression to be able to live a better life. While we wait for science to catch up with our mental health needs, there are many treatments available to help with depression symptoms.


If you manage your lifestyle carefully, attend therapy, and take your medications as prescribed, you stand a better chance at managing your depression. Always make sure that you are taking time for daily self-care, and caring for your overall health. This way, you stand the best chance possible at leading a good life even while coping with depression.




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