There are many things that people with depression can do for themselves to help them get better and stay well. The important thing is finding the right treatment for the individual’s needs.
There are several types of psychological treatments shown to be effective in the treatment of depression:
- Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) – In CBT, a person works with a professional (therapist) to identify the patterns of thought and behavior that are either making them more likely to become depressed, or stopping them from improving once they become depressed. CBT has an emphasis on changing thoughts and behavior by teaching people to think rationally about common difficulties, helping them to shift their negative or unhelpful thought patterns and reactions to a more realistic, positive and problem-solving approach.
- Interpersonal therapy (IPT) – IPT is a structured psychological therapy that focuses on problems in personal relationships. IPT is based on the idea that relationship problems can have an impact on a person experiencing depression, and can even contribute to the cause. IPT is thought to work by helping people to recognize patterns in their relationships that make them more exposed to depression. Identifying these patterns means they can focus on improving relationships, coping with grief and finding new ways to get along with others.
- Mindfulness based cognitive therapy (MBCT) – MBCT helps people to stop their mind wandering off into thoughts about the future or the past, or trying to avoid unpleasant thoughts and feelings. This is thought to be helpful in preventing depression from returning because it allows people to notice feelings of sadness and negative thinking patterns early on, before they have become fixed. It therefore helps the person to deal with these early warning signs better.
Medical treatments for depression
The main medical treatment for depression is antidepressant medication. There is a lot of misinformation about antidepressant medication and while there is no simple explanation as to how it works, it can be very useful in the treatment of moderate to severe depression (and some anxiety disorders).
Antidepressant medication may be prescribed, along with psychological treatments, when a person experiences a moderate to severe episode of depression. Sometimes, antidepressants are prescribed when other treatments have not been successful or when psychological treatments are not possible due to the severity of the illness or a lack of access to the treatment.
Which antidepressant should be used?
Making a decision about which antidepressant is best for a person can be complex. The decision is made in consultation with a doctor, after careful assessment and consideration. People can help the doctor’s assessment by providing as much information as possible about themselves and their medical history. Important factors include the person’s age, symptoms, other medications and, if female, whether they are pregnant or breastfeeding.
There are many different types of antidepressant medication which have been shown to work, but their effectiveness differs from person to person. Antidepressants take at least two weeks before they start to help, and it may also take some time for the doctor to find the most suitable medication and dosage.
What are the side effects?
Antidepressants can make people feel better, but they won’t change their personality or make them feel happy all the time. Like taking any other medication, some people will experience some side effects. Common side effects, depending on which medication is taken, include nausea, headaches, anxiety, sweating, dizziness, agitation, weight gain, dry mouth and sexual difficulties (e.g. difficulty becoming/staying aroused).
Some of these symptoms can be short-lived, but people who experience any of these symptoms should tell their doctor, as there are ways of minimizing them. The likelihood of a particular side effect happening varies between individuals and medications.