Depression is a mental illness that causes feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and emptiness. It’s one of the most common mental illnesses. In fact, over 15 million adults experienced depression in 2014.
Depression can be debilitating for those that experience it. But there are many effective treatments available that can help you manage your depression symptoms.
Keep reading to learn how to find mental health doctors in your area and start getting treatment.
The first step in getting treatment for depression is making an appointment with your general practitioner. They can recommend doctors in your area.
If you’re religious, ask your religious leader if they have counselors to recommend. Some people prefer faith-based counseling, which incorporates their religion into a treatment plan.
You can also check healthcare databases for therapists, psychiatrists, and counselors. These databases can provide you with information such as certifications, accepted insurance providers, and reviews left by other people. Start with the databases at the Anxiety and Depression Association of America and Psychology Today.
First line of treatment
Talk therapy and medication are often used as the first line of treatment for depression.
Talk therapy involves discussing your problems and how you feel with a trained therapist. Your therapist can help you detect patterns of thought or behavior that contribute to your depression. You may be given homework, such as tracking your moods or writing in journals. This will help you to continue your treatment outside of appointments. Your therapist can also teach you exercises to reduce stress and anxiety, and help you understand your illness.
A therapist can also help you create strategies to identify and avoid any triggers that exacerbate your depression. They can also help you develop coping mechanisms for when you experience these triggers.
Talk therapy may resolve temporary or mild depression. It can often treat severe depression, but not without other treatments such as medication.
Depression medications are a common part of treatment. Some people use these medications for a short time, while others use them long term. Your doctor will take multiple factors into consideration before prescribing any medication, including:
- possible side effects
- current health concerns
- possible drug interactions
- your specific symptoms
Medications that are commonly used to treat depression include:
- Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs. These typically have less side effects than other types of antidepressants. Fluoxetine (Prozac), sertraline (Zoloft), and escitalopram (Lexapro) all fit into this category.
- Serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors, or SNRIs. These include duloxetine (Cymbalta) and desvenlafaxine (Pristiq).
- Tricyclic antidepressants. These antidepressants can be very effective, but cause more severe side effects. They’re often used if you haven’t responded to other medications. These include imipramine (Tofranil) and nortriptyline (Pamelor).
Mood stabilizers or anxiety medications are sometimes combined with antidepressant medication. If you’re seeing a counselor or a therapist who can’t prescribe medications, they can contact your primary care doctor and request the prescription for you.
There are a variety of alternative and natural treatments that are often used to treat depression. These treatments shouldn’t be used without consulting your doctor first, especially if you’re taking prescription antidepressants or other medications.
Some alternative remedies for depression include:
- St. John’s Wart
- omega 3 fatty acids
- massage therapy
- relaxation techniques
Certain lifestyle changes can help you manage your depression. These can be used along with treatment from your therapist to get your best results.
Avoiding alcohol and recreational drugs can make a big impact on your depression. Some people may feel temporary relief from their depression when consuming alcohol or taking drugs. But, once these substances wear off your symptoms can feel more severe. They can even make your depression more difficult to treat.
Eating well and being physically active can help you feel better all around. Exercising regularly can increase your endorphins and relieve depression. Getting enough sleep is also essential to both your physical and mental health.
If other treatment methods haven’t worked for you, more intensive treatments may be used.
In cases of extremely severe depression, people may be hospitalized. This is especially true if they are considered at a high-risk of harming themselves or others. This often includes counseling and the use of medications to help you get your symptoms under control.
Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is sometimes used for people who don’t respond to other treatment. ECT is performed under anesthesia, and electrical currents are sent through the brain. It’s thought to impact the function of neurotransmitters in your brain and can offer immediate relief from depression.
Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) is another option. In this procedure, you sit in a reclining chair with a treatment coil against your scalp. This coil then sends short magnetic pulses. These pulses stimulate nerve cells in the brain responsible for mood regulation and depression.
Finding the right treatment
Sticking to your treatment plan is one of the most important things you can do. It’s easy to get discouraged in the first few weeks of treatment. You may not want to continue. All types of treatment can take a few months before you notice a difference. It’s also easy to feel like you’re doing much better and stop treatment all together. Never stop treatment without consulting your doctor first.
You should feel comfortable talking to your therapist. If you don’t, try switching to a new one. You may have to meet with several therapists before you find the one that’s right for you.
You should also talk to your therapist about your feelings toward your therapy sessions and your overall treatment plan. This allows them to work with you and make changes if your treatment plan isn’t working.
Finding the right treatment is often a trial-and-error process. If one doesn’t work, it’s good to move on. If two or more months have gone by and you’ve stuck to a treatment but don’t feel any relief from the depression, it’s likely not working for you. You should experience relief from depression within three months of starting a medication.
Talk to your doctor immediately if you’re:
- depression doesn’t improve after several month of treatment
- symptoms have improved, but you still don’t feel like yourself
- symptoms get worse
These are signs that your treatment plan isn’t working for you.
If you’re experiencing depression, help is available. A number of counselors and therapists even offer scholarships or sliding scale pricing for those who can’t afford treatment.
Organizations such as the National Alliance on Mental Illness offer support groups, education, and other resources to help fight depression and other mental illnesses.
If you’re experiencing suicidal thoughts, call 911 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255.
If you’re experiencing depression, you can call the following anonymous and confidential numbers:
- National Suicide Prevention Hotline (open 24/7): 1-800-273-8255.
- Samaritans 24 Hour Crisis Hotline (open 24/7): 212-673-3000
- United Way Helpline (which can help you find a therapist, healthcare, or basic necessities): 800-233-4357