6 Radical Ways To Treat Depression

Virtual reality, sleep deprivation, hallucinogens and more radical ways to treat depression.

Virtual reality, sleep deprivation, hallucinogens and more radical ways to treat depression.

Depression treatments usually involve talking therapies and SSRI antidepressants.

However, research has pointed to some radical new treatments.

Click the links for more on each study:

1. Virtual reality

Immersive virtual reality therapy could soon be helping people with depression, a study suggests.

The virtual reality therapy helped people to be less critical and more compassionate towards themselves.

This helped reduce their depression symptoms.

While wearing virtual reality headsets, people in the study comforted a virtual child who was crying.

As they did so, it appeared to respond positively to the compassion.

Then the virtual reality system gave them the impression they were in the position of the child.

2. Magic mushrooms

Psilocybin — a hallucinogen from ‘magic’ mushrooms — can help reduce the symptoms of severe depression, a new study finds.

Psilocybin is also currently being tested for alcoholism, smoking cessation, and in people with advanced cancer.

The small study gave psilocybin to 12 people with treatment-resistant depression.

The hallucinogen was found to be well-tolerated and safe to use.

Along with supportive therapy, the psilocybin helped half the participants to feel better up to three months later.

3. Sleep deprivation

Sleep deprivation can rapidly reduce the symptoms of depression, 30 years of research suggests.

Around half of people with depression who are sleep deprived under controlled, inpatient conditions feel better quickly.

Many see improvements in just 24 hours, in comparison to the weeks it can take for antidepressants to start working.

‘Wake therapy’, as it is sometimes called, involves staying awake all night and the next day.

Around 50% of people find their depression improves — until they sleep again.

4. Brain training

Learning to control your own brain waves could be an effective treatment for severe depression, research finds.

The small pilot study found that a technique called neurofeedback helped severely depressed people whose depression had proved very hard to treat.

Neurofeedback involves patients concentrating on a readout of their own brain waves.

Over time, people can learn to control and change them.

5. Ayahuasca

Ayahuasca — a psychedelic drug traditionally used in South America — may help treat depression and alcoholism, new research suggests.

The survey of over 96,000 people around the world found that ayahuasca users reported higher well-being and lower problems with alcohol abuse.

Ayahuasca contains dimethyltryptamine (DMT), which is a powerful psychedelic that acts over a short period.

In the 60s it was known as the ‘businessman’s trip’ because its effects last between 5 and 15 minutes, instead of the hours resulting from LSD or magic mushrooms.

6. Herbs

The herb roseroot could be an effective alternative to antidepressants, a recent study finds.

Compared with a modern SSRI, roseroot has fewer side effects and similar antidepressant effects, finds a clinical trial.

The recent study tested oral R. rosea extract against sertraline, an SSRI antidepressant and compared these with a placebo.

57 people with mild to moderate depression were included in the trial.

The results showed that the roseroot extract had a similar effect on the symptoms to the antidepressant.


Author: Jeremy Dean

Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology. He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book "Making Habits, Breaking Habits" (Da Capo, 2013) and several ebooks.

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