Depression is a widespread mental health condition that can affect anyone. While traditional treatments like medication and therapy have helped many people, some individuals still struggle to find relief. This is where hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) comes into play. 

HBOT is a relatively new treatment option that’s gaining traction for depression relief. In this article, we’ll explore the potential of HBOT for alleviating depressive symptoms. We’ll delve into the science behind how the therapy works, the benefits it offers, and the current research findings.  This article aims to offer a comprehensive understanding of HBOT for depression through a clear, evidence-based discourse.

Key Takeaways

  • Researchers are actively exploring hyperbaric oxygen therapy as a potential treatment for depression, especially when traditional therapies have failed to treat treatment-resistant depression.
  • HBOT involves breathing pure oxygen in a pressurized environment, which increases oxygen delivery to body tissues, aids in wound healing, fights bacteria, and has shown promise in treating a range of conditions, including mental health disorders.
  • Recent studies indicate that HBOT can substantially reduce depression and anxiety symptoms in patients with traumatic brain injury (TBI) and incomplete spinal cord injury (ISCI),1 suggesting it may be a viable adjunctive treatment in mental health.

What is Depression?

When looking at the question, what is depression, it is important to mention that depression is a multifaceted mental health issue and falls under the umbrella of psychiatric disorders. It manifests as profound emotional and physical symptoms that impact one’s mood, thought processes, and general behavior. This condition goes beyond transient feelings of sadness or being upset for short periods. It involves an enduring presence of despair and disinterest that hampers daily activities such as working, studying, eating, and sleeping.

To establish a diagnosis of depressive disorder, the individual must exhibit several specific symptoms of depression almost every day for a minimum of two weeks. These symptoms can include persistent low moods, feelings of worthlessness or guilt, impaired concentration capabilities, and recurring thoughts about suicide or death. The origins of depression are varied but may stem from genetic predisposition along with stressful life events or ongoing medical conditions like diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular disease, or Parkinson’s.

What Are the Available Treatment Options for Depression?

Typical methods used in the treatment for depression cover therapies such as:

  • Pharmacological interventions using antidepressants
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT)
  • Psychodynamic approaches
  • Interpersonal counseling
  • TMS 

These strategies include routine rehabilitation therapy that caters to different elements associated with this depression. Mental health professionals may choose to incorporate these strategies in individual sessions or group therapy sessions. 

However, some patients may not respond well to the standard medications alongside psychotherapy. They may experience what is known as treatment-resistant depression,2 where their symptomatic experience persists despite numerous therapeutic measures. In such cases, these individuals may seek alternative methodologies that offer hope, like hyperbaric oxygen therapy. 

Making informed decisions regarding treatments can become daunting given the diversity of options surrounding the management journey. However, learning about different treatment paths can offer hope to those dealing with depression and other mental health issues.

What is Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT) and How Does it Work?

Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT) is a treatment where patients inhale 100% oxygen in an environment of elevated air pressure.3 This non-invasive procedure enhances air pressure two to three times greater than the standard atmospheric levels, allowing the lungs to absorb significantly more oxygen than usual. As a result, oxygen saturation in the blood is increased, and its transport throughout body tissues improves.

Research shows that the increased level of oxygen supplied through an HBOT chamber contributes to a range of benefits, including acting against bacteria and promoting  growth factor and stem cell production – both essential bodily recovery processes.4 HBOT can also assist in wound healing, particularly when injuries have affected blood flow.

HBOT effectively promotes tissue repair in areas suffering from low-oxygen supply by infusing blood plasma with high concentrations of hyperbaric oxygen. The treatment has been recognized as potentially beneficial for various health issues,3 including neurological disorders, decompression sickness associated with diving, severe infections that are hard to treat, and wounds that fail to heal naturally.

The Applications of Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy utilizes the healing properties of oxygen to treat a wide range of health issues. Although not approved by the FDA, HBOT’s “off-label” applications do show promise for healing a range of conditions, including:

  • Potentially lethal infections
  • Embolism with arterial gas blockages
  • Wounds that resist closure due to diabetes or exposure to radiation
  • Infections within the brain’s tissues
  • Poisoning via carbon monoxide inhalation
  • Tissue damages resulting from severe compression forces
  • A bacterial infection known as clostridial myonecrosis or gas gangrene
  • Soft tissue bacterial invasions leading to necrosis
  • The harm caused by radiation on various body tissues
  • Procedures involving skin grafts and flaps
  • Damage incurred by excessive heat or fire

HBOT has also shown significant positive outcomes in mitigating discomfort and swelling while reducing inflammation, thus enhancing daily life for individuals suffering from chronic ailments. This therapy bolsters the immune system’s efficacy through increased delivery of oxygen at a cellular level, which aids white blood cells in combating infectious agents.5

While firmly rooted in physical medical treatments, hyperbaric oxygen therapy has also emerged as an influential support for mental wellness. Current studies are investigating its effectiveness against mental health conditions, including:

  • Depression and other mood disorders
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Traumatic injuries affecting brain function (TBI and concussions)
  • Incomplete damage incidents impacting spinal cord functionality

Is Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy Beneficial in Treating Depression?

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) isn’t just limited to treating physical ailments. Research suggests HBOT has the potential to significantly alleviate depression and anxiety in individuals with conditions like traumatic brain injury and incomplete spinal cord injury (ISCI).1

One study found that after eight weeks of HBOT, patients experienced a marked decrease in both Hamilton Depression (HAMD) and Hamilton Anxiety (HAMA) scores, indicating improvement in their mental state. These findings suggest that HBOT could be a valuable addition to conventional rehabilitation, offering similar benefits to psychotherapy in patients with ISCI.

The potential mechanism behind HBOT’s positive impact lies in its ability to:

  • Inhibit apoptosis: HBOT can potentially prevent or slow down programmed cell death, promoting neural regeneration.
  • Enhance blood and oxygen supply: Increased oxygen delivery to the injured spinal cord site might reduce secondary edema (swelling) and minimize further damage.

This combined effect could explain the observed improvement in mental health observed in patients undergoing HBOT.

Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy in Traumatic Brain Injury

HBOT has shown promise in addressing the cognitive and emotional issues that often follow a traumatic brain injury,6 including mental and psychological trauma as well as depression, improving patient outcomes and overall life satisfaction.

HBOT’s efficacy in mitigating depression among TBI patients was measured utilizing tools like the Hamilton Depression Rating Scale (HAMD) and the Hamilton Anxiety Rating Scale (HAMA).1 The results from a 2017 study pointed toward a marked enhancement in the mental wellness of individuals following treatment with hyperbaric oxygen, indicating its potential role as an effective therapeutic intervention.

These encouraging results underscore the potential for incorporating HBOT into treatments targeting depression and traumatic brain injuries, and signal an opportunity for further investigative studies. Future research could potentially reveal more about how HBOT works at a fundamental level and optimize its use for those suffering from post-TBI depression.

Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy and Incomplete Spinal Cord Injury

Incomplete spinal cord injuries (ISCI) can trigger significant psychological issues, including depression and anxiety. These conditions can drastically affect patients’ quality of life and hinder their active participation in rehabilitation training. Research indicates that hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) can effectively treat psychological issues resulting from ISCI, thereby promoting neurological recovery and enhancing patients’ engagement in their rehabilitation.

Studies have shown that HBOT promotes recovery of neurological function in patients with cervical spinal cord injury,7 indicating potential benefits in treating concurrent traumatic brain injuries and traumatic spinal cord injury. Moreover, the psychological relief provided by HBOT encourages patients with spinal cord injuries to actively participate in their rehabilitation training, further enhancing their recovery.

These findings present HBOT as a promising adjunctive therapy for depression and anxiety in patients with ISCI. However, as with any emerging treatment approach, more research is needed to confirm these findings and optimize the application of HBOT in this context.

Seeking Relief from Treatment-Resistant Depression? Explore Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy at Plus by APN

Struggling with depression that hasn’t responded to traditional treatments? Plus by APN offers a comprehensive approach that may offer new hope. We utilize innovative therapies alongside evidence-based methods like medication and therapy.

During an HBOT session, each client breathes pure oxygen in a pressurized chamber, allowing the body to absorb more oxygen. This process can improve blood flow, reduce inflammation, and promote healing – all of which may contribute to alleviating symptoms of depression.

Plus by APN offers a personalized approach, carefully evaluating your needs before integrating HBOT into your treatment plan. Don’t wait – explore your options and take the first step towards a brighter future. 

Schedule a free consultation today!

Frequently Asked Questions

Who cannot use hyperbaric oxygen therapy?

Individuals who have recently undergone ear surgery or suffered an injury, those experiencing a cold or fever, or individuals with specific lung diseases should be cautious about undergoing hyperbaric oxygen therapy. 

What is Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT)?

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy entails inhaling pure oxygen within a pressurized setting, enabling the lungs to absorb more oxygen than they usually would. This enhanced intake of oxygen fosters the body’s healing mechanisms.

How does HBOT help in treating depression?

HBOT may alleviate depression by relieving symptoms and facilitating recovery via improved oxygen transportation to bodily tissues, especially in individuals suffering from traumatic brain injury and incomplete spinal cord injury.

Final Thoughts

Depression is a complex mental health disorder that can have profound impacts on emotions, cognition, and physical wellness, persisting beyond transient feelings of sadness. While psychotherapy and pharmaceuticals are traditional remedies that work for many individuals, they may not be successful in cases of treatment-resistant depression. 

At Plus by APN, we recognize the benefits of hyperbaric oxygen therapy as an innovative alternative for treating depression. By employing heightened atmospheric pressure to enhance oxygen absorption within a person’s body tissues, HBOT facilitates reparative functions. Emerging research has shown that it provides significant relief in symptoms related to anxiety and depression. 

Book your consultation to get started on this treatment today.

References

  1. Feng, Juan-Juan, and You-Hui Li. “Effects of hyperbaric oxygen therapy on depression and anxiety in the patients with incomplete spinal cord injury (a STROBE-compliant article).” Medicine vol. 96,29 (2017): e7334. doi:10.1097/MD.0000000000007334
  2. McIntyre, Roger S., et al. “Treatment‐Resistant Depression: Definition, Prevalence, Detection, Management, and Investigational Interventions.” World Psychiatry, vol. 22, no. 3, 2023, pp. 394-412, https://doi.org/10.1002/wps.21120. Accessed 14 Mar. 2024.
  3. Sen, Suman, and Sheuli Sen. “Therapeutic Effects of Hyperbaric Oxygen: Integrated Review.” Medical Gas Research, vol. 11, no. 1, 2021, pp. 30-33, https://doi.org/10.4103/2045-9912.310057. Accessed 14 Mar. 2024.
  4. Peña-Villalobos, Isaac, et al. “Hyperbaric Oxygen Increases Stem Cell Proliferation, Angiogenesis and Wound-Healing Ability of WJ-MSCs in Diabetic Mice.” Frontiers in Physiology, vol. 9, 2018, https://doi.org/10.3389/fphys.2018.00995. Accessed 14 Mar. 2024.
  5. Levitan, D. M., et al. “Rationale for Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy in Traumatic Injury and Wound Care in Small Animal Veterinary Practice.” The Journal of Small Animal Practice, vol. 62, no. 9, 2021, pp. 719-729, https://doi.org/10.1111/jsap.13356. Accessed 14 Mar. 2024.
  6. Liu, Zhiguo, et al. “HBOT Has a Better Cognitive Outcome than NBH for Patients with Mild Traumatic Brain Injury: A Randomized Controlled Clinical Trial.” Medicine, vol. 102, no. 37, 2023, https://doi.org/10.1097/MD.0000000000035215. Accessed 14 Mar. 2024.
  7. Patel, Nitesh P., and Jason H. Huang. “Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy of Spinal Cord Injury.” Medical Gas Research, vol. 7, no. 2, 2017, pp. 133-143, https://doi.org/10.4103/2045-9912.208520. Accessed 14 Mar. 2024.