Finding an anti-depressant that works can take a long time. About 10% of Americans 12 and over are depressed and taking medication for it, but just a portion of them will find that the drugs actually work.
This is because doctors and scientists don’t know everything there is to know about depression, and depression can be a complex illness, as unique to each individual as we are to each other.
Finding the right combination of pharmaceuticals and other treatments to take away a patient’s symptoms can take years.
But that is all about to change, at least partially. A new test is being developed and its goal is to test how effective antidepressants will be for each person who needs them.
The test was developed by Leanne Williams who is a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Stanford University, and a recent study has shown that, amazingly, it is 81% accurate in predicting whether an antidepressant will help a person bring their symptoms back to a healthy level or not.
What does it involve?
It has two parts to it. First, it looks at a person’s exposure to negative experiences in childhood that are known to trigger depression such as physical abuse, emotional and sexual abuse and neglect.
The second part involves a scan on the section of the brain that deals with emotions and helps us respond to stress in our lives. It’s called the amygdala.
The fact is, different individual’s brains work in differing ways, and so the role that the amygdala plays in regulating our emotions can change from person to person.
To illustrate this, the Huffington Post describes how kids who are abused can develop a hypersensitive amygdala. This makes them better at reading their caregiver’s moods so they can learn to avoid being harmed.
When these children grow into adults, sometimes the previous experiences are so bad that their brain can lose the ability to react to happy looking faces.
If a person’s brain still reacts to happy faces, researchers have found that antidepressants are more likely to help them. If not, other forms of treatment may be better, for the moment.
Bringing the test to the general public is still in the works. Hopefully, brighter days are on the way.