Treatments for Depression

About Treatments for Depression

Anyone experiencing depression symptoms should first visit a physician for an examination and diagnosis. In some cases, an undiagnosed medical condition or the side-effects of prescribed medications can produce symptoms similar to those of depression. Your M.D. can help alleviate depression when it's a secondary condition to a primary illness or drug reaction, but when actual depression is the diagnosis, your M.D. will usually refer you to either a psychologist or a psychiatrist with the expertise to provide further treatment. Which type of professional you are referred to depends on your individual case.

Psychotherapeutic counseling is one way to treat depression, and it can be very effective. Psychologists can help individuals open up and talk about the things that are bothering them. They can also help patients work out a way to either learn to cope with those issues or find a way to resolve them.

Psychiatric Care

In some cases of depression, the best treatment is a two-prong approach that combines counseling and the use of medication to help alleviate symptoms. In cases like this, a psychiatrist provides treatment because, unlike a psychologist, he or she is also a licensed physician who can prescribe anti-depressant medication as well as provide therapeutic counseling.


Anti-depressant medications affect communications between neurons to treat depression.

  • SSRIs: These include medications like Paxil, Zoloft and Celexa.
  • SSNRIs: These include medications like Cymbalta and Effexor.
  • MAOIs: Drugs in this class can help stabilize mood when SSRIs fail to alleviate symptoms.
  • Tryciclic Anti-depressants: Medications like Elavil are used to treat depression when symptoms persist after other anti-depressants have failed.

All anti-depressants can produce side effects and should be used under close doctor supervision.


Traditionally used to treat Seasonal Affective Disorder, also known as Winter depression, phototherapy is now used to treat other forms of depression. Treatment involves spending approximately 30 minute sessions in front of a light box equipped with specialized, bright artificial lights. There are a lot of variables involved with phototherapy, so sessions should be conducted under a doctor's supervision.

Electroconvulsive Therapy

Also referred to as electroshock therapy, electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is reserved for the most severe cases of treatment-resistant depression. The procedure presents risks from anesthesia and should not be prescribed when it might aggravate other medical conditions. Thorough screening is done before ECT is prescribed, but it can be an effective treatment for major depression when other treatments have failed.


When someone suffering from depression also has thoughts about harming him or herself or others, hospitalization, either temporary or long-term, may be necessary to safeguard everyone concerned until other forms of treatment result in stabilizing the patient's mood.

Which Treatment Is Right?

Only your medical care provider can determine which depression treatment is most appropriate for you. Your inventory of symptoms as well as your health history and any medications you take will all be used as criteria for your diagnosis. Sometimes an initial treatment plan must be revised until the right combination of therapies alleviates your symptoms and allows you to live normally once again.

For more information on depression symptoms, visit 10 Signs of Depression.

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Treatments for Depression