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How hyperbaric oxygen therapy for depression gives you strength to heal

Mental Health | Published: March 1st 2022, 08:53AM

Discover why the healing powers of oxygen are so beneficial for patients battling this increasingly common mood disorder


Before the pandemic, depression was one of the leading mental health conditions among adults in the United States, but COVID-19 stressors only increased its prevalence in the past couple years. [1]

A recent study found that depression among adults drastically rose from 8.5% to 27.8% in early 2020, and only continued to worsen in 2021 to 32.8% or affecting 1 in 3 adults. [2]

Depression—also called major depressive disorder or clinical depression—is a mood disorder that causes severe emotional and physical symptoms that affect how you feel, think, and behave. [3,4]

There are many misconceptions about depression being a weakness and a feeling that you can “snap out” of, but it’s a diagnosed medical illness that affects your brain and requires treatment to heal. [4]


What exactly are the symptoms of depression?

A patient is diagnosed with depression when they’ve been experiencing a number of the following symptoms most of the day, almost every day, for two weeks at minimum:

  • Feeling….
    • Sad
    • Anxious
    • Empty
    • Hopeless
    • Irritable
    • Restless  
    • Pessimistic
    • Guilty
    • Worthless, or
    • Helpless
  • No interest or enjoyment in usual hobbies and activities
  • Decreased energy or fatigue
  • Moving or talking more slowly
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions
  • Trouble with sleeping, early-morning awakening, or oversleeping
  • Changes in appetite or weight 
  • Frequent or recurrent thoughts of death or suicide, or suicide attempts
  • Unexplained physical aches and pains without a clear cause and/or that won’t go away with treatment. [3]

Each patient experiences a different amount, severity, and frequency of symptoms, but many people face ones that are severe enough to disrupt their daily activities and they generally feel poorly without understanding why. [3,4]


What are the major causes of depression? 

Depression is often caused by a variety of factors, but the major causes are usually tied to the following factors:

  • Genetic
  • Biological
  • Environmental, and
  • Psychological. [3]

It is also common for depression to occur alongside other chronic medical conditions like
diabetes, cancer, heart disease, and Parkinson’s disease either as a symptom of the condition or a medication taken for the condition may cause side effects that contribute to depression. [3]


What are general methods used to treat depression?

Even in the most severe cases, depression can be treated, and it’s most often with medication, psychotherapy, or a combination of both. In some cases, brain stimulation therapies like electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) can be used to reduce symptoms as well. [3]

Some patients seek out additional treatment methods like normobaric oxygen therapy or hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) to help with specific symptoms or aid in the efficacy and speed of other treatments. [5]


Does hyperbaric oxygen therapy work for depression?

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy can be extremely beneficial for patients with depression that need additional treatment beyond medication and psychotherapy. 

Studies are continually being done to assess the clinical effectiveness of hyperbaric oxygen therapy for mental illnesses like depression, but it’s been hypothesized that it may mobilize stem cells to injured parts of the body, modulate immunity, and impact neurotransmitters. [6]

A recent study aimed to investigate the effectiveness of treating patients with depression with a combination of HBOT and escitalopram, a Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor (SSRI) medication commonly used to treat depression and generalized anxiety disorder. The study found that the treatment was effective after four to six weeks in significantly improving patients’ cognitive function. [7]

Another study looked into the effects of hyperbaric oxygen therapy on psychological issues like depression and anxiety as well as nerve function after incomplete spinal cord injury (ISCI). After eight weeks of treatment, results showed that HBOT effectively treated depression and anxiety in patients at a similar level to psychotherapy, and that it significantly improved nerve function and ability to do daily activities. [8]


Related resource:
Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy for Brain Health: How does it work?


How we can help

We’ve been successful in helping patients battling depression and other mental illnesses heal at Hyperbaric Healing Treatment Center. 

“We see a lot of patients suffering from chronic conditions like long COVID, traumatic brain injuries (TBI), and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) that have caused them to face mental health issues like depression and anxiety,” shares Erika Jordan, hyperbaric director and founder of Hyperbaric Healing Treatment Center. “These patients have found great relief from both their physical and mental symptoms after following a hyperbaric oxygen therapy treatment plan.”


Interested in learning more about HBOT as a depression treatment? 

Once your medication and counseling regimen are established, it can be beneficial to receive hyperbaric oxygen therapy as an additional way to help heal both your mind and body as you work to combat the symptoms of your depression.

Our trained, caring team of hyperbaric specialists are ready to answer any questions you may have. We welcome you to contact us today.


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1: National Alliance on Mental Illness | Mental Health By the Numbers

2: The Lancet Regional Health—Americas | Persistent depressive symptoms during COVID-19: a national, population-representative, longitudinal study of U.S. adults

3: National Institute of Mental Health | Depression 

4: Mayo Clinic | Depression (major depressive disorder)

5: Brain & Behavior Research Foundation | In Pilot Study, Oxygen Therapy for Moderate Depression Showed Beneficial Effects

6: National Center for Biotechnology Information | Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy for Adults with Mental Illness: A Review of the Clinical Effectiveness

7: National Center for Biotechnology Information | Efficacy of hyperbaric oxygen combined with escitalopram in depression and its effect on cognitive function

8: National Center for Biotechnology Information | Effects of hyperbaric oxygen therapy on depression and anxiety in the patients with incomplete spinal cord injury (a STROBE-compliant article)

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