Drugs, therapy can help treat depression

Published On: Mar 19 2012 04:03:02 PM EDT   Updated On: Apr 09 2012 04:27:25 PM EDT

By Vonda Sines, Contributing Writer

For 55-year-old Anne, having it all seemed just around the corner. She'd been promoted to vice president. Her kids were happy, healthy professionals. She and her husband spent most weekends poring over brochures featuring retirement communities.

One Saturday, her husband didn't return from a quick trip to Starbucks. He died the victim of a freak accident. Without 60 percent of the family income, Anne was forced to sell their home. She was also diagnosed as suffering from clinical depression.

Therapy, Drugs Help

The price of the good life for baby boomers can be stiff. According to Revolution Health, the standard options for individuals suffering from depression remain psychotherapy and drug treatment.

The preferred medications -- due to relatively mild side effects and low chance of overdosing -- are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors such as Zoloft and Celexa. These SSRI medications influence the function of targeted neurotransmitters in the brain and regulate chemicals that permit nerve cells to talk to each other.

However, as many as 40 percent of older Americans either quit taking these drugs or miss doses.

A conventional, but less frequently used treatment is electroconvulsive therapy, helpful for patients who are psychotic, delusional, suicidal or refusing to eat and drink.

The problem with anti-depressant drugs, PsychCentral reports, is that some patients respond to one medication but not another. While more than 80 percent of patients responded to at least one medication, individual anti-depressants are effective for only 50 to 60 percent of patients.

So what's a boomer to do when the pills don't help? For many caught in a hurried life, psychotherapy might be the answer. The types of treatment available include cognitive-behavioral, problem-solving and interpersonal psychotherapy, according to PsychCentral. Each one allows the patient to sort out the personal reasons that might be the cause of his or her depression. Many note some improvement after just six to eight weeks.

Computerized Training

Results of a new study, reported by EmaxHealth, suggest that computer-based training on cognitive function for baby boomers and seniors could be helpful for treating depression. The findings were recently presented at the Alzheimer's Foundation International Conference on the Prevention of dementia and are the result of a two year, double-blind clinical trial studying patients older than 40.

According to Dr. Amos Korczyn, chairman of the Department of Neurology for Tel-Aviv University's Tel-Aviv Sourasky Medical Center and one of the researchers for the study, results suggest that cognitive training should be encouraged for patients suffering from depression.

The study showed that use of a specialized cognitive skill assessment and training software known as MindFit improved short-term memory, spatial relations and attention focus for all the 121 subjects.

Each was randomly assigned to spend 30 minutes, three times a week over a period of three months using the special software or sophisticated computer games. Results showed those using the MindFit program profited the most. The software was designed to provide entertaining, individualized training that matches exercises and levels to each user's cognitive skill sets and needs.

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