There are many types of treatment that can help alleviate the symptoms of depression. Two-thirds of people living with the condition never seek treatment, even though 80 percent of all people with clinical depression who seek treatment do see improvement within a matter of weeks. Not all treatments will work for everyone. Your doctor can help determine which method or methods are right for you.
Antidepressant medications are often the first line of treatment used for clinical depression, and they are prescribed alone or alongside talk therapy. Because there are so many different kinds of antidepressants, finding the one that works for you can sometimes take time. But don't let that discourage you. Six out of 10 people will begin to feel better with the first antidepressant that they are prescribed. The immediate relief that medication provides can give patients the boost they need to take an active part in their recovery. Although some people will see mood improvements within a couple of weeks, others will need to take an antidepressant for at least six weeks to experience the full effect. It's important to remember, however, that most people taking antidepressants experience at least one undesirable side effect from the drug. Learn more about the different kinds of depression drugs.
If you've never been to a therapist, you might be surprised by your experience. Just as there are many types of antidepressants, there are also a few different kinds of therapy. Counseling can help you get things off your chest that you didn't realize were bothering you, help you identify destructive thoughts that get you down, help you understand where these feelings come from, and teach you how to cope with those feelings. A lot of people may feel hesitant about talking to a stranger about their emotions, but studies show that talk therapy is a very effective treatment modality. Plus, you don't have to deal with the side effects of taking pills.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) helps people find new ways of dealing with negative thoughts and behaviors. Instead of delving into the past to determine where a feeling or emotion comes from, CBT helps patients become more aware of how their beliefs or actions are contributing to depression. Once those are identified, a therapist will work with his or her patient to replace those negative attitudes with more positive ones. There may be daily or weekly exercises and guidance involved to help patients apply the skills they learn in therapy to the real world. More than 75 percent of people who undergo CBT for depression see significant improvement.
Interpersonal psychotherapy (IPT) for depression focuses on relationships. It addresses specific conflicts within your relationships and looks at how you relate to people in general. Relationships in this case refer to all kinds of interpersonal connections, including family, friends, coworkers, and even strangers. Short-term IPT usually involves up to 20 weekly hour-long sessions and is as effective as antidepressants
When most people think of therapy, psychodynamic is the type that comes to mind. It involves getting to the psychological root of your depression. To do so, patients are asked to engage in a significant amount of self-examination and reflection on the past. One of the goals is to help people identify troublesome relationship patterns in their lives and understand where they come from. This can help patients see why they behave in certain ways and remove guilt or self-blame so they can move forward with their lives.
Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), known to some as "shock treatment," is used to treat severely depressed or suicidal people who don't respond to other forms of treatment or can't take antidepressants. A small electric current is delivered to the patient's brain while he is sedated under general anesthesia. The current, which lasts for about 40 seconds, causes seizure activity in the brain and typically brings immediate relief. Experts aren't sure why it works. Some people may suffer from temporary confusion and memory loss. ECT is usually administered once every two to five days, for a total of six to 12 sessions.
Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation
A newer type of treatment, transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) uses magnetic fields to stimulate cells in the brain. Like ECT, it is used when other forms of treatment, such as medication and therapy, don't work. A large electromagnetic coil placed against the scalp delivers painless electric currents to the brain to stimulate areas associated with mood. Because TMS is so new, researchers are still trying to determine the best areas of the brain to target and the most effective dose of electric current. Its long-term effects are still largely unknown.
Deep Brain Stimulation
Originally used as a treatment for Parkinson's disease, deep brain stimulation (DBS) is still considered experimental in its use for depression. With DBS, two electrodes are surgically implanted into an area of the brain that is overactive in people with depression. The electrodes provide continual electric stimulation via a generator that is embedded in the chest. Researchers believe the electric pulses reset the brain and help it to function normally.
Vagus Nerve Stimulation (or Vagal Nerve Stimulation)
Like deep brain stimulation, vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) is a type of brain-stimulating therapy that uses an implanted device to send electric currents to the brain. Instead of putting a set of electrodes in the brain, one electrode is embedded just underneath the skin along the vagus nerve in the neck. The vagus nerve transmits messages from the brain to some major organs, such as the heart, lungs, and intestines, as well as to select parts of the brain. Stimulating this nerve appears to alter the levels of neurotransmitters (brain chemicals) associated with mood regulation. As with DBS, a pulse generator implanted in the chest controls the electrode. VNS is an experimental treatment and the long-term side effects of its use are currently unknown. It is only used in cases of severe or chronic depression when other treatments fail to work.