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Treating Depression

60-80% of depression sufferers can be helped with treatment and your doctor can help you find the right treatment. Medications are often the first choice to treat depression and there are many different types of antidepressants to choose from. Psychotherapy or electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) may also help some people with depression. The most important thing to do if you are depressed is to seek help.

Explore complementary treatments for alternative therapies to treat depression.

Antidepressants and psychotherapy can help.
antidepressant medication, psychotherapy, or a combination of both, 60-80% of people who experience an episode of depression can be helped.

Medications work to correct the chemical imbalances in the brain that lead to the alleviation of symptoms.

Psychotherapy helps to alleviate symptoms of depression by helping people understand their past behavior, personality traits, and thinking patterns.

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  Your doctor will help you find the right treatment.
Episodes of depression, whether due to a depressive disorder or a bipolar disorder, respond extremely well to
medication and psychotherapy.

To find the right treatment for you, work closely with your doctor.

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), treatment choice will depend on the outcome of an evaluation by your doctor. There are a variety of antidepressant medications and psychotherapies that can be used to treat depressive disorders.

The NIH also finds that some people with milder forms of depression may do well with psychotherapy alone. People with moderate to severe depression often benefit from antidepressants. Most do best with combined treatment: medication to gain relatively quick symptom relief and psychotherapy to learn more effective ways to deal with life’s problems, including depression.

Sometimes it takes patience and trial and error for your doctor to determine the right treatment for you. Your active involvement in this process can really make a difference.

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Medications can be very effective.
Drug therapy is often the first choice of treatment for an episode of depression.

When the medication is working, most people begin to feel better within 1 to 2 weeks. However, it may take several weeks to feel the full effect of the antidepressant medication.

Medication may then be continued for several months to keep your symptoms from returning.

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Antidepressant treatments may depend on symptoms.
To find the medicine that’s right for you, tell your doctor all of your
symptoms, such as feeling restless and unable to focus or feeling tired and fatigued.

Your doctor can then select the medicine that works best to relieve your specific symptoms.

Certain types of depression need different treatment. For people who suffer from seasonal depression, a special light that mimics sunlight may be used daily for a short time, especially during the winter months when daylight is the shortest. One treatment for severe depression is electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), which sends mild electrical currents to the brain and often provides a quick response.

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Psychotherapy can be effective too.
Psychotherapy with a trained professional also can help relieve
symptoms of depression.

Psychotherapy is based on a dialogue between the patient and a qualified therapist who listens, talks, and helps the person understand or find solutions for his or her problems.

According to the NIH, the three main types of therapy are:

  • Behavioral therapy—focusing on current and past behaviors. “Behavioral” therapies help patients learn how to obtain more satisfaction and rewards through their own actions and how to unlearn the behavioral patterns that contribute to or result from their depression.
  • Cognitive therapy—focusing on thoughts, thought patterns, and beliefs. Cognitive-behavioral therapists help patients change the negative styles of thinking and behaving often associated with depression.
  • Interpersonal therapy—focusing on the person’s way of relating to others. Interpersonal therapists focus on the patient’s disturbed personal relationships that both cause and exacerbate (or increase) the depression.
Psychodynamic therapies, which are sometimes used to treat depressed persons, focus on resolving the patient’s internal conflicts. These therapies are often reserved until the depressive symptoms are significantly improved (from the NIH).

In general, severe depressive illnesses, particularly those that are recurrent, will require medication (or ECT under special conditions) along with, or preceding, psychotherapy for the best outcome (from the NIH).

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Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) may be used in special cases.
Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is useful, particularly for individuals whose depression is severe or life threatening or who cannot take
antidepressant medication.

ECT often is effective in cases where antidepressant medications do not provide sufficient relief of symptoms.

In recent years, ECT has been much improved. A muscle relaxant is given before treatment, which is done under brief anesthesia. Electrodes that deliver electrical impulses are placed at precise locations on the head to deliver electrical impulses. The stimulation causes a brief (about 30 seconds) seizure within the brain. The person receiving ECT does not consciously experience the electrical stimulus.

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Ask for help. Why it’s important to seek outside help for the treatment of an episode of depression:

Be a partner in your care.

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"Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see the shadow. "

Helen Keller (1880-1968) US author, lecturer

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