Depression Treatments

Treatment for depression may include one or a combination of the following:

  • Medicine. Antidepressants work by affecting the brain chemicals. Know that it takes 4 to 6 weeks for these medications to have a full effect. Keep taking the medicine, even if it doesn’t seem to be working at first. Never stop taking your medication without first talking to your doctor. Some people have to switch medicines or add medicines to get results. Work closely with your doctor to find treatment that works for you.
  • Therapy. This is most often cognitive behavioral and/or interpersonal therapy. It focuses on changing the distorted views you have of yourself and your situation. It also works to improve relationships, and identify and manage stressors in your life.
  • Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). This treatment may be used to treat severe, life-threatening depression that has not responded to medicines. A mild electrical current is passed through the brain, triggering a brief seizure. For unknown reasons, the seizures help restore the normal balance of chemicals in the brain and ease symptoms.

With treatment, you should feel better within a few weeks. Without treatment, symptoms can last for weeks, months, or even years. Continued treatment may help to prevent recurrent depression.

Depression can make you feel exhausted, worthless, helpless, and hopeless. It’s important to realize that these negative views are part of the depression and do not reflect reality. Negative thinking fades as treatment begins to take effect. Meanwhile, consider the following:

  • Get help. If you think you may be depressed, see a health care provider as soon as possible.
  • Set realistic goals in light of the depression and don’t take on too much.
  • Break large tasks into small ones. Set priorities, and do what you can as you can.
  • Try to be with other people and confide in someone. It’s usually better than being alone and secretive.
  • Do things that make you feel better. Going to a movie, gardening, or taking part in religious, social, or other activities may help. Doing something nice for someone else can also help you feel better.
  • Get regular exercise.
  • Expect your mood to get better slowly, not right away. Feeling better takes time.
  • Eat healthy, well-balanced meals.
  • Stay away from alcohol and drugs. These can make depression worse.
  • It is best to delay important decisions until the depression has lifted. Before deciding to make a big change --change jobs, get married or divorced -- discuss it with others who know you well and have a more objective view of your situation.
  • Remember: People don’t "snap out of" a depression. But they can feel a little better day-by-day.
  • Try to be patient and focus on the positives. This may help replace the negative thinking that is part of the depression. The negative thoughts will fade as your depression responds to treatment.
  • Let your family and friends help you.

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