(ABC) -Depression is a common but serious medical condition that affects about one in 10 American adults.
Depression can be mild or it can be so severe that it prevents a person from functioning. The good news is depression can be successfully treated.
Jerrie Spencer has dealt with depression most of her life, but she says a few years ago it became almost debilitating. Jerrie didn't want to use medication, so she enrolled in a clinical trial at Mass General Hospital in Boston that's testing a new and promising non-drug treatment called 'near infrared light.'
"The near infrared light thru the forehead gets to the powerhouse of the cell, which are the mitochondria, and leads to more energy in the brain area that are close to the source of light," said Dr. Paolo Cassano.
Dr. Cassano says the light also decreases inflammation in the brain and increases connections between neurons, all of which seems to help a depressed person feel better. It's still experimental, but Spencer believes the treatment works.
"Now, I'm functioning, I'm working, I'm busy," Spencer said.
Another novel approach to treating depression at Mass General is the use of small doses of the anesthetic drug ketamine. Depression is one of the most common mental disorders in the U.S. and it's likely caused in part by chemical imbalances in the brain.
"They don't realize this is a treatable condition, they don't realize they can feel better sometimes in as just a few weeks," said Dr. Cristina Cusin.
Signs and symptoms include:
-a persistent sad, anxious or empty mood
-feelings of hopelessness, pessimism or guilt
-loss of interest in activities
-difficulty with concentration, sleep or weight
-thoughts of suicide.
If you think you have depression, please seek help as soon as possible.