Talk Therapy Vs Antidepressants: What’s the Best Way to Tackle Depression


Talk Therapy Vs Antidepressants: What's the Best Way to Tackle Depression

In the recent years, depression is garnering more attention, thanks to people talking about it without any hindrance. Not too long ago, mental illness was thought of to be inappropriate to mention out in the open. But like any other major diseases, it too needs to be spoken about so that more and more people become aware of it, and take necessary steps to prevent the illness. Depression too can be treated with proper medication and care. According to a new study by Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, Georgia, US, specific patterns of activity on brain scans may help clinicians identify whether talk therapy or antidepressant medication is more likely to help a patient recover from the illness.

“All depressions are not equal and like different types of cancer, different types of depression will require specific treatments,” said lead researcher Professor Helen Mayberg.

The study randomly assigned patients to 12 weeks of treatment with one of two antidepressant medications or with cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), a talking therapy aimed at helping people manage their problems by changing the way they think and behave. At the start of the study, patients underwent a functional MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) brain scan, which was then analysed to see whether the outcome from CBT or medication depended on the state of the brain prior to starting treatment.

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The MRI scans identified that the degree of functional connectivity between an important emotion processing centre (the subcallosal cingulate cortex) and three other areas of the brain was associated with the treatment outcomes.

Specifically, patients with positive connectivity between the brain regions were significantly more likely to achieve remission with talk therapy, whereas patients with negative or absent connectivity were more likely to remit with antidepressant medication.

“Using these scans, we may be able to match a patient to the treatment that is most likely to help them, while avoiding treatments unlikely to provide benefit,” Mayberg added.

These results suggest that achieving personalised treatment for depressed patients will depend more on identifying specific biological characteristics in patients rather than relying on their symptoms or treatment preferences. The study was published online in the American Journal of Psychiatry.


Written by Loknath Das