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What is Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy for Depression?

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) is a treatment in which a person breathes almost 100% medical-grade oxygen inside a pressurized hyperbaric chamber. Originally used to treat decompression sickness, in recent years, Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT) has been used to treat an array of medical conditions. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy also helps in strengthening the immune system by helping the body increase the production of white blood cells.

Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT) floods the body’s tissue with oxygen while lessening the swelling of damaged blood vessels. In a hyperbaric oxygen therapy chamber, the air pressure is increased two to three times higher than normal air pressure. Under these conditions, your lungs can gather much more oxygen than possible by breathing pure oxygen at normal air pressure.

Multiple studies on depression have examined MRI scans of depressive patients and noticed changes in blood flow to the brain, particularly the prefrontal cortex. It has therefore been hypothesized that hyperbaric oxygen therapy OT could potentially treat depression. While much of the research into HBOT’s effect on depression is still preliminary, it’s so far been favorable. Several studies show that regular Hyperbaric oxygen therapy treatment over several weeks can relieve symptoms of depression – sometimes as much as more established methods like psychotherapy.

The benefit of HBOT is that the effects don’t go away after stopping the sessions. They persist for months and years, making the lives of patients better. Psychiatrists found that including hyperbaric oxygen therapy along with their therapy produced remarkable results in their mentally depressed patients. 

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How Does Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy Work?

HBOT aids wound healing by carrying oxygen-rich plasma to tissue starved for oxygen. Wound injuries damage the body’s blood vessels, which release fluid that leaks into the tissues and causes swelling. This swelling denies the damaged cells of oxygen, and tissue starts to die. HBOT reduces swelling while flooding the tissues with oxygen. The higher pressure in the chamber increases the amount of oxygen in the blood. HBOT aims to break the cycle of oxygen starvation, swelling, and tissue death.

  • Hyperbaric oxygen therapy prevents “reperfusion injury.” This is the severe tissue damage that occurs when the blood supply returns to the tissues after they have been deprived of oxygen. For example, when blood flow is interrupted by a crush injury, a series of events inside the damaged cells release harmful oxygen radicals. These molecules can harm tissues that can’t be reversed. They cause the blood vessels to clamp up and stop blood flow. HBOT stimulates the body’s oxygen radical scavengers to seek out the problem molecules and let the healing continue.
  • Hyperbaric oxygen therapy helps stop the action of harmful bacteria and bolsters the body’s immune system. HBOT can disable the toxins of certain bacteria. It also increases oxygen concentration in the tissues. This helps them resist infection. In addition, the therapy improves the ability of white blood cells to find and destroy invaders.
  • Hyperbaric oxygen therapy encourages the formation of new collagen and new skin cells. It does so by encouraging new blood vessels to grow. It also enables cells to produce certain substances, like vascular endothelial growth factors. These attract and stimulate endothelial cells needed for healing.

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Cost of Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy

The patient out-of-pocket cost of hyperbaric oxygen therapy will vary depending upon a number of important factors, including the condition or reason for care, the specific insurance plan, and the severity of symptoms. Here is a breakdown of these three major determinants that play a significant role in its cost:

Whether the condition is considered on-label or off-label. 

  • When a procedure is FDA-approved, it’s often covered by the patient’s insurance. There are several illnesses and injuries for which the FDA has approved the use of hyperbaric oxygen therapy. These are known as on-label conditions, and include:
  • Radiation tissue damage
  • Failed skin grafts and flaps
  • Crush injury & other acute traumatic ischemias
  • Necrotizing soft tissue infection
  • Carbon monoxide poisoning and smoke inhalation
  • Central retinal artery occlusion
  • Non-healing wounds
  • Gas gangrene
  • Decompression sickness
  • Diabetic lower extremity wounds (diabetic foot ulcers)
hyperbaric oxygen therapy for depression
The safety of Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) is relatively high as long as
guidelines of use are followed meticulously.

Type of provider and location.

  • Providers of HBOT fall into two main categories – hospital-based and independent. The cost of care and experience at each can be significantly different. Hospital-based HBOT programs generally accept most insurance but are only able to see on-label patients. Independent providers may see all types of patients, but many do not take any insurance at all. 

The severity of your symptoms.

  • The severity of symptoms will play a role in determining the overall course of care. Like many other areas in life, the sooner an issue is addressed, the easier it is to resolve. While that is not always the case, it can play a role in how much HBOT will be required.

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Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy Side Effects

Like all medical treatments, there are possible side effects to HBOT, but they are minimal or temporary at most. Knowing these common side effects from hyperbaric is sure to help [1].

There are side effects some more severe than others associated with mild hyperbaric oxygen therapy.

Ear Pain: The most common side effect is middle ear pain; it is, however, non-life threatening and resolves rather quickly. Patients will usually experience this more in the initial visits, and it will subside over time.

Claustrophobia: Another side effect of the treatment is claustrophobia. Claustrophobia, which appears to be present in about 2% of the general patient population, may cause some degree of confinement anxiety. 

Congestion, cold or flu: HBOT operators should ask if the patient has any cold or flu symptoms, fever, sinus or nasal congestion, or chest congestion.

Pregnancy: The patient must be asked if there is a possibility that she may be pregnant.

Vision changes: Another common side effect that occurs during HBOT treatment is minor and temporary changes in vision, usually presenting as nearsightedness (myopia) caused by temporary eye lens changes.

Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy for Depression

Major depressive disorder (MDD) is one of the most common mood disorders in the United States. Although there are many possible symptoms, depression is typically characterized by persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and loss of motivation. The treatment of depression is incredibly important both for the health of your body, and the quality of your life.

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) may help relieve the symptoms of depression by decreasing levels of inflammation. Although the exact pathophysiology of depression remains unknown, research suggests that it involves elevated levels of pro-inflammatory markers in both the peripheral body and the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord)

When people suffering from depression were put through HBOT sessions, they started to experience clear headedness and mental sharpness. The increased supply of oxygen to the brain helped improve neural functioning of the brain as more stem cells were lodged in the brain. Eventually doctors found that the chemicals produced by the brain were balanced unlike when they were depressed.

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Can Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy Help Depression?

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy for depression (HBOT) can be extremely beneficial for individuals who suffer from depression that need additional treatment beyond psychotherapy and medication. Studies are continually being done to evaluate the clinical efficacy of hyperbaric oxygen therapy for mental illnesses such as depression, but it’s been hypothesized that it may mobilize stem cells to injured parts of the body, modulate immunity, and impact neurotransmitters [2].

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 [3].

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 [4].

Other Uses of HBOT 

Today, it’s still used to treat sick scuba divers and people with carbon monoxide poisoning, including firefighters and miners. It has also been approved for more than a dozen conditions ranging from burns to bone disease, including:

  • Carbon monoxide poisoning
  • Crush injuries
  • Cyanide poisoning
  • Gas gangrene (a form of gangrene in which gas collects in tissues)
  • Decompression sickness
  • Compromised skin grafts and flaps
  • Infection in a bone (osteomyelitis) that doesn’t respond to other treatment
  • Delayed radiation injury
  • Chronic infection called actinomycosis
  • Acute or traumatic reduced blood flow in the arteries
  • Flesh-eating disease (necrotizing soft tissue infection)
  • Air or gas bubble trapped in a blood vessel (air or gas embolism)
  • Diabetic wounds that are not healing properly

Be mindful that hyperbaric oxygen therapy is not regarded as safe and effective for treating certain conditions. These include: HIV/AIDs, brain injury, heart disease, stroke, asthma, depression, spinal cord injury, and sports injuries.

Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy Benefits for ADHD

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a behavioral, mental, and neuro-development health issue that causes impulsivity, highs of energy, hyper-fixation, etc. These behaviors are usually pervasive, age-inappropriate, and confusing. In the case of ADHD, hyperbaric oxygen therapy helps improve cognitive processes and comprehensive blood flow of the body. This leads to a series of therapeutic processes, which help eliminate ADHD and Autism symptoms.

Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy for Headaches

Hyperbaric oxygen has been used to treat migraines since the 1930s. Charles E. Rhein of Linde Air Products, Co. successfully treated migraines by having patients breathe pure oxygen at 6 to 8 liters per minute. In the 1940s, Dr. Alvarez of Mayo Clinic repeated the experiment with 100 headache patients.

According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) [5], preliminary reports have shown that hyperbaric oxygen (HBO) interrupts cluster headache (CH) attacks. In the present study, 6 of 7 patients with episodic cluster headache who were treated with hyperbaric oxygen experienced an interruption of the attack. In addition, in 3 of 6 responders, the florid period of the cluster headache was interrupted.

Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy PTSD

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, more commonly known as PTSD, is a mental health disorder triggered by a traumatic event. PTSD is most commonly found in people who served time in the military, suffered a traumatic childhood experience, or anyone else who has had a traumatic experience.

Someone who suffers from this long-term pain and fear is afflicted with PTSD. PTSD is another level of stress and fear, to the point of feeling afraid when there isn’t any immediate threat. Flashbacks, nightmares, and frightening thoughts are all symptoms of having PTSD.

Someone who suffers from this long-term pain and fear is afflicted with PTSD. PTSD is another level of stress and fear, to the point of feeling afraid when there isn’t any immediate threat. Flashbacks, nightmares, and frightening thoughts are all symptoms of PTSD.

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy treatments provide 100 percent oxygen delivered under increased pressure that helps treat post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD. This increased oxygen helps heal damaged brain tissue, improves blood flow, reduces inflammation, and promotes the growth of new tissue and blood vessels.

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Depression Treatment

Major depressive disorder (MDD) is often accompanied by substance abuse or dependence. The mental health field has long discussed whether these conditions are independently occurring disorders or are overlapping illnesses intertwined by common etiologic and vulnerability factors. The initial presentation of depression can be obscured by the overriding symptoms or side effects of a substance use disorder (SUD).

In the general population, the prevalence of a current substance use disorder in persons with Major depressive disorder (MDD) ranges from 8.5 to 21.4%, with a lifetime prevalence of comorbid SUDs ranging from 27 to 40% [6]. Co-occurring depression has an adverse effect on the course of SUDs. Current depression predicted poorer treatment response and higher rates of relapse.

People who suffer from depression can experience severe sadness that lasts weeks or even months at a time. It’s common for those battling mental illness to also struggle with substance abuse. Sometimes it can be difficult to determine which condition came first. People faced with prolonged periods of profound sadness may reach for drugs or alcohol to ease the pain, feelings, and other symptoms.

However, substance use can actually make depression symptoms more severe. Clinical depression alone increases the risk of accidental injury, suicide, and other forms of self-harm. Add in drugs or alcohol, and the threats to the person’s mental and physical health can be extreme.

To determine the most effective ways to treat depression and substance abuse comorbidity, it’s crucial to first get an accurate assessment of all the symptoms. When the symptoms have been evaluated by a mental health professional, it may be determined that another form of mental condition is present and needs a particular type of treatment. 

Detox Treatment

The first step in treatment is medical detox. It will help you navigate the complicated withdrawal process, but it doesn’t address patterns of thought and behavior that contribute to substance abuse. Various treatment approaches and settings can help provide the ongoing support necessary to maintain long-term sobriety after you complete detox.

Cravings are very common during detox and can be challenging to overcome. This often leads to relapse. Constant medical care provided during inpatient treatment helps prevent relapse. Clinicians can provide necessary medication and medical expertise to lessen cravings and the emotional effects of alcohol withdrawals.

Psychotherapy

Several different modalities of psychotherapy have been used in the treatment of depression, including:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) – is an effective treatment that involves making changes in both the patterns of negative thoughts and the behavioral routines which are affecting the daily life of the depressed person for various forms of depression. 
  • Dialectical Behavior Therapy – is a comprehensive mental health and substance abuse treatment program whose ultimate goal is to aid patients in their efforts to build a life worth living. The main goal of DBT is to help a person develop what is referred to as a “clear mind.” 
  • Person-Centered Therapy – is a strategy that allows and encourages clients to understand and resolve their concerns in a safe, supportive environment.

Dual Diagnosis Treatment

Substance abuse and mental health disorders often co-occur. In many cases, traumatic experiences can result in a mental health disorder and substance abuse. Dual diagnosis programs treat both of these issues together. The best approach for the treatment of dual diagnosis is an integrated system. In this strategy, both the substance abuse problem and the mental disorder are treated simultaneously. Regardless of which diagnosis (mental health or substance abuse problem) came first, long-term recovery will depend largely on the treatment for both disorders done by the same team or provider.

Medication-Assisted Treatments

Medication-Assisted Treatments (MAT) for substance use disorders and mental health disorders are commonly used in conjunction with one another. This includes the use of medications and other medical procedures. During your rehab, the staff from your treatment facility will help you identify what caused your addiction and teach you skills that will help you change your behavior patterns and challenge the negative thoughts that led to your addiction. Sometimes, the pressures and problems in your life lead you to rely on substances to help you forget about them momentarily.

If you or your loved one is suffering from alcohol or drug addictions, indeed, help is just a phone call away. Professional addiction treatment is necessary for fast and effective recovery. Contact us today at We Level Up treatment facility. We provide utmost care with doctors and medical staff available 24/7 for life-changing and lasting recovery. We offer an enhanced opportunity to return to a fulfilling and productive life.

hyperbaric oxygen therapy for depression
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Sources:

[1] NCBI – https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24984321/
[2] NCBI – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK253746/#:~:text=Depression%20is%20the%20most%20common,oxygen%20at%20high%20atmospheric%20pressures
[3] NCB – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8281171/#:~:text=HBO%20combined%20with%20escitalopram%20can,remains%20to%20be%20further%20observed.
[4] NCBI – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5521886/
[5 ]NCBI – https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24984321/