Steve Levine, MD: The Challenges of Treating MDD


Steve Levine, MD, discussed the challenges physicians must overcome when treating patients with major depressive disorder.

Steve Levine, MD, the founder and CEO of Actify Neurotherapies, sat down with MD Magazine and discussed the challenges physicians must overcome when treating patients with major depressive disorder, since so many patients with the condition recoil. He also discussed how Actify Neurotherapies promotes a positive patient culture among those getting treatment there.

Steve Levine, MD, the founder and CEO of Actify Neurotherapies:

One of the challenges in working with patients who have major depressive disorder and related conditions is that, by definition, people withdraw. They turn in. They sometimes might not even show up, right, so it's hard to get people into the office because the messages they get from that condition are: "Stay home," and "don't talk to anyone," and "shut down, isolate." And even once they come into the office, it's similar. People are slowed down, their speech is slowed down, their thought process is slowed down, or they're unable to make eye contact.

It would be very difficult to connect, and so it's a big barrier in treating things like depression.

So our approach - one of the things that we try to do - is really, keep people continuously engaged in treatment. We reach out to them in between treatments by email, by phone, through patient portals. We continually send them information, new content digitally that might be helpful to them, that might relate to what they're struggling with. When they're in the office, we try to create a more social environment, which initially might be a little bit uncomfortable because it goes against that inclination to isolate, but we try to make it more of a community. They really get to know us, our treatment team, sometimes other patients there - which is something unusual in mental health.

You know, in most times, when people come in for depression and they're the only one in the office, they come in, they see the doctor, and they leave. Which to me, is a missed opportunity because if there are other people there who share a similar experience - and in a non-threatening way - you'd be sitting in the waiting room for a few minutes [together].

So when we're passing in the hallway they can make a little bit of a connection. To me, that's part of treatment, and so we really try to foster that sense of community in the office, too. To really push back against that message from depression that says, "hold people off, shut down, back away."

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