What is Depression?

Depression, also known as major depressive disorder (MDD), is a common and serious mental health condition that affects a person’s mood, thoughts, and overall well-being. It goes beyond the normal fluctuations in mood that everyone experiences from time to time. Depression can significantly impact a person’s ability to function in their daily life and can lead to a range of emotional, cognitive, and physical symptoms.

Symptoms of depression can vary widely from person to person, but they often include:

  • Consistently low mood
  • Disinterest or avoidance of once-enjoyed activities or hobbies
  • Trouble with concentration or memory
  • Significant changes in eating or sleeping patterns
  • Decreased self-care
  • Physical pains and additional health issues
  • Feeling pessimistic or hopeless
  • Increased irritability or anger
  • Co-occurring disorders
  • Suicidal attempts or thoughts

It’s important to note that a diagnosis of major depression requires the presence of several of these symptoms, which cause significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.

Depression is a complex disorder with both biological and environmental factors at play. It can result from a combination of genetic predisposition, brain chemistry imbalances, mood disorders, hormonal changes, and environmental stressors such as trauma, loss, or chronic stress.

Treatment for depression often involves a combination of approaches, including psychotherapy (such as cognitive-behavioral therapy), antidepressant medications, lifestyle changes, and, in some cases, innovative treatments.

Understanding the Spectrum: From Moderate to Severe Depression

Understanding the spectrum of depression from moderate to severe is critical for tailoring treatment approaches to meet the needs of individuals. Depression’s impact varies widely among those affected, necessitating a nuanced approach to diagnosis and management.

Moderate depression:

Often presents with symptoms that, while distressing, allow individuals to maintain some level of daily functioning. These individuals might experience persistent sadness, difficulty concentrating, and changes in appetite and sleep, but they can still engage in personal and professional activities to some extent. 

While psychotherapy, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and interpersonal therapy (IPT), remains a cornerstone of depression treatment, we also offer innovative options like Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS). TMS is a non-invasive procedure that uses magnetic fields to stimulate nerve cells in the brain to improve symptoms of depression. This option can be particularly effective for individuals who may not have fully benefited from medication by providing a hopeful alternative for improving well-being without the need for traditional pharmaceuticals.

Severe depression:

On the other hand, depression may significantly impair an individual’s ability to function in daily life. Some symptoms are more intense and may include profound feelings of worthlessness, suicidal ideation, and a marked inability to perform everyday tasks. In cases of more severe depression, however, where there is a risk of harm to oneself or others, a more immediate, and possibly intensive treatment approach is necessary. Alongside traditional psychotherapy and medication management, our clinic offers Ketamine Therapy and Stellate Ganglion Blocks (SGB) as innovative treatments.

The choice between different treatment modalities should be made in consultation with mental health professionals, taking into account the severity of symptoms, the individual’s previous treatment history, and their personal preferences. Building a trusting relationship with healthcare providers is a crucial first step to facilitating effective treatment and support, as the provider relationship can strongly influence the inclusion of promising treatments for severe depression.

This nuanced understanding of the depression spectrum underscores the importance of a personalized approach to treatment, recognizing that the severity of depression greatly influences the management plan. The emphasis on assessing and addressing the full range of depressive symptoms highlights the need for comprehensive care strategies adaptable to the complexities of each individual’s experience with depression symptoms.

Navigating Depression Treatment: Finding the Right Help

Finding the right help for depression involves navigating various treatment options and collaborating with healthcare professionals. Initial treatment may start with a doctor, who can refer patients to specialists like psychiatrists for severe cases, or when initial treatments are insufficient.


Psychiatrists and psychologists offer specialized interventions, including medication management, psychotherapy, and support for co-occurring conditions. A coordinated approach among professionals ensures that treatment is comprehensive, personalized, and responsive to changes in symptoms or treatment outcomes.

The Traditional Approaches

For decades, antidepressant medications have been a cornerstone of depression treatment. These medications, which mainly work by influencing the levels of neurotransmitters like serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine, can help alleviate depressive symptoms. Common classes of antidepressants include selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), and tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs).

Medications in Depression Treatment: A Pillar of Support

Medications are a cornerstone in treating both mild or moderate depression, and severe depression, offering vital support to many. These treatments, ranging from SSRIs to newer options, work by balancing the brain’s chemicals involved in mood regulation. They can significantly reduce symptoms, helping patients regain their quality of life. While antidepressants can be an effective tool, the journey to find the right medication can vary from person to person, and requires close collaboration with healthcare professionals. A mental health professional can help tailor treatment to the individual’s specific needs and minimize the impact of any potential side effects.

Traditional Therapy and CBT

Individual therapy, especially cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), is another widely recognized method for treating depression. CBT helps individuals identify negative thought patterns and behaviors, providing them with coping skills and strategies to manage their symptoms. Therapy sessions offer a safe space for patients to explore their emotions and develop healthier ways of thinking.

Exploring Innovative Approaches

Depression, often referred to as the “common cold” of mental health disorders, affects millions of people worldwide, making it one of the most prevalent mental health issues. While traditional treatments like antidepressants and individual therapy have proven effective for many, there’s a growing understanding that a one-size-fits-all approach might not work for everyone. 

In recent years, a range of innovative approaches, including deep transcranial magnetic stimulation (dTMS), lifestyle psychiatry, ketamine-assisted healing, and stellate ganglion blocks, have emerged as promising alternatives to complement and even surpass the effects of conventional psychological treatments.

Deep Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (Deep TMS)

Deep TMS is a non-invasive procedure that uses magnetic fields to stimulate specific regions of the brain. While traditional TMS targets the surface of the brain, deep TMS penetrates deeper into brain structures.

Depression is often associated with abnormal patterns of brain activity and connectivity. Deep TMS can influence neuroplasticity, which is the brain’s ability to reorganize itself by forming new neural connections. Deep TMS can potentially restore more balanced and healthy patterns of neural activity by targeting specific brain regions, treating individuals who haven’t responded well to antidepressant medications.

The prefrontal cortex is a region of the brain responsible for regulating mood and emotional responses. In people with depression, however, this area is often underactive. Deep TMS can increase the activity of the prefrontal cortex, which is believed to impact mood regulation positively. 

Deep TMS is also thought to stimulate the release of neurotransmitters such as serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine. These neurotransmitters play crucial roles in regulating mood and emotions. By enhancing their release, TMS may help alleviate depressive symptoms.

Deep TMS is different from electroshock therapy; regulates brain activity using magnets. While some people may experience adverse side effects from deep TMS (like headaches), most people do not experience pain or discomfort during or after a dTMS session.

Ketamine-Assisted Healing

Ketamine, a dissociative anesthetic, has garnered attention for its rapid antidepressant effects when used in controlled therapeutic settings. Ketamine-assisted healing involves administering a low dose of ketamine under medical supervision. The mechanism of its antidepressant action differs from that of traditional antidepressants, as it targets the glutamate system, a neurotransmitter involved in mood regulation.

Studies have shown that ketamine-assisted healing can quickly reduce depressive symptoms, often within hours of administration. Ketamine is thought to work through a different mechanism compared to traditional antidepressant medications;it acts on the glutamate system in the brain, specifically the N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptors. This process leads to the release of neurotransmitters, including glutamate and brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which are associated with synaptic plasticity, neurogenesis, and mood regulation. 

Ketamine is believed to induce neural plasticity, allowing the brain to reorganize itself by forming new connections. These new connections can potentially help to “reset” maladaptive thought patterns and break the cycle of depression.

One of the critical benefits of ketamine-assisted therapy is its rapid onset of action. Traditional antidepressants can take several weeks to start showing effects, whereas ketamine can sometimes lead to noticeable improvements in mood within hours or a few days. 

During a ketamine-assisted therapy session, individuals experience an altered state of consciousness. This state can allow for a more introspective and insightful exploration of their thoughts, feelings, and past experiences. Therapists can guide patients through these experiences to facilitate healing and personal growth.

Healthcare providers often combine ketamine-assisted therapy with psychotherapy sessions. The altered state induced by ketamine can enhance the therapeutic process, allowing individuals to delve deeper into their emotions and experiences. Therapists can help patients process and make sense of their insights during and after the ketamine experience.

Each ketamine-assisted therapy session is tailored to the individual’s needs and responses. The dosage and frequency of ketamine administration and the content of the psychotherapy sessions are personalized to optimize the therapeutic outcomes.

Stellate Ganglion Blocks

A stellate ganglion block (SGB) is a medical procedure in which a local anesthetic is injected into the stellate ganglion, a cluster of nerves located in the neck near the base of the cervical spine. SGBs are commonly used to manage certain pain conditions and have gained attention for their potential role in treating conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression.

The stellate ganglion regulates the autonomic nervous system, which controls bodily functions like heart rate, blood pressure, and stress response. An SGB can block and essentially modulate nervous system activity to influence the autonomic response to stress, potentially reducing the symptoms of depression and anxiety.

SGBs might influence the release and balance of certain neurotransmitters, such as norepinephrine and serotonin, which are implicated in mood regulation. The changes in neurotransmitter activity could potentially contribute to an improvement in depressive symptoms.

Proponents of SGBs suggest they might disrupt traumatic memories or emotional responses associated with PTSD or depression. By affecting the sympathetic nervous system’s response, SGBs could potentially relieve symptoms and alleviate the emotional distress linked to these conditions.

Lifestyle Psychiatry

Lifestyle psychiatry, also known as lifestyle medicine or lifestyle interventions, focuses on utilizing various lifestyle changes to improve mental health conditions like depression. This modality recognizes the strong connection between physical health, mental well-being, and lifestyle factors. While lifestyle changes alone may not replace traditional treatments like therapy or medication, they can complement and enhance the overall management of depression. Lifestyle psychiatry can help treat depression by focusing on:

  • Diet and nutrition
  • Physical activity
  • Sleep hygiene
  • Stress management
  • Social engagement
  • Substance use avoidance
  • Mind-body practices
  • Sunlight exposure
  • Goal setting and positive habits

It’s important to note that lifestyle psychiatry is most effective when tailored to an individual’s unique needs and circumstances. Working with a qualified healthcare professional, such as a psychiatrist or psychologist specializing in lifestyle interventions, can provide personalized guidance and support.

Additionally, lifestyle changes might not be sufficient for everyone, especially in cases of severe or persistent depression. For many individuals, a combination of lifestyle changes, therapy, medication, and other treatments may be necessary to manage depression effectively.

Additional Treatments for Severe Depression: Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT)

Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT) is a powerful treatment option for severe depression, especially when other treatments have not been effective. Administered under general anesthesia, ECT uses brief electrical currents to cause changes in brain activity, offering rapid symptom relief for some of the most challenging cases of depression. 

While ECT is highly effective, patients need to understand the procedure, potential benefits, and risks involved before making informed decisions with their healthcare providers. Plus by APN does not offer ECT, and ECT is not the same as deep TMS or any other Plus service.

A Personalized Approach

While antidepressants and therapy remain crucial tools in the fight against depression, these innovative approaches offer hope for individuals who don’t find relief from traditional methods. Depression can impact various aspects of a person’s life, including physical health, relationships, work, and daily functioning. A personalized approach considers all these areas and aims to improve overall well-being.

Depression is a complex mental illness and health condition that can manifest differently in each individual; symptoms, severity, underlying causes, and triggers can vary widely. Various factors, including genetic predisposition, life experiences, trauma, hormonal imbalances, and more can also cause depression. Identifying and addressing the underlying causes is essential for effective treatment.

Many individuals with depression also have coexisting conditions, such as anxiety disorders, substance use disorders, or medical conditions. A personalized approach considers these comorbidities and develops a treatment plan that addresses all aspects of a person’s health. When individuals feel that their treatment plan is designed specifically for them, they are more likely to be engaged and committed to the process. This sense of empowerment can positively impact treatment outcomes.

In the future, a combination of these approaches might become the norm, reflecting the complex and multifaceted nature of depression. Integrating deep TMS, lifestyle psychiatry, ketamine-assisted healing, and stellate ganglion blocks into a comprehensive treatment strategy could lead to more tailored and effective interventions.

Depression is not a one-size-fits-all condition, and an individualized approach considers the uniqueness of each person’s experience and tailors their treatment accordingly. 

Personalization enhances the likelihood of effective depression treatment outcomes, improves adherence, and respects the individual’s preferences and needs throughout the treatment journey. Therefore, collaborating closely with mental health professionals to determine the most suitable treatment plan is essential. 

Ultimately, the goal of any mental health treatment plan is to provide a range of options that empower individuals to find the path to recovery that resonates with them, ushering in a new era of hope and healing for those battling depression and other mental health conditions.

Partnering with a Mental Health Professional for Personalized Care

At Plus by APN, we believe in the power of a personalized approach to depression treatment. Our team of mental health professionals is committed to working closely with each patient, understanding their unique needs, and crafting a tailored treatment plan that may include medication, therapy, and advanced treatments like TMS and ketamine therapy. This collaborative approach ensures that our care aligns with each individual’s path to recovery, embodying our values of respect, connection, and innovation.

Finding the Right Depression Treatment For You

Plus by APN takes a personalized approach to ease depression symptoms, and create tailored, effective treatment strategies for every person. Call 877.507.7675 or complete our confidential online contact form to get started with depression treatment today.