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Treating Depression


Depression, even the most severe cases, can be effectively treated. The earlier that treatment can begin, the more effective it is.

The first step to getting appropriate treatment is to visit a doctor or mental health specialist. Certain medications, and some medical conditions such as viruses or a thyroid disorder, can cause the same symptoms as depression. A doctor can rule out these possibilities by doing a physical exam, interview, and lab tests. If the doctor can find no medical condition that may be causing the depression, the next step is a psychological evaluation.

The doctor may refer you to a mental health professional, who should discuss with you any family history of depression or other mental disorder, and get a complete history of your symptoms. You should discuss when your symptoms started, how long they have lasted, how severe they are, and whether they have occurred before and if so, how they were treated. The mental health professional may also ask if you are using alcohol or drugs, and if you are thinking about death or suicide.

Once diagnosed, a person with depression can be treated in several ways. The most common treatments are medication and psychotherapy.

The good news is that depression is treatable. One’s primary care physician can effectively treat depression by Supportive counseling, prescribing an antidepressant medication and/or referring to a mental health professional. Understanding the underlying cause of your depression may help you overcome the problem.

If even the thought of tackling depression seems overwhelming, one should not panic. Feeling helpless and hopeless is a symptom of depression—not the reality of situation. It does not mean that he/she is weak or can’t change! The key to depression recovery is to start small and ask for help. Having a strong support system in place will speed recovery. Isolation fuels depression, so reach out to others, even when one feels like being alone.

Make healthy lifestyle changes: Lifestyle changes are not always easy to make, but they can have a big impact on depression. One could take a good look at their own lifestyle. What changes could he/she make to support depression recovery? Self-help strategies that can be very effective include:

  • Cultivating supportive relationships
  • Getting regular exercise and sleep
  • Eating a healthy, mood-boosting diet
  • Managing stress
  • Practicing relaxation techniques

Seek help and Support: If positive lifestyle changes and support from family and friends aren’t enough, seek help from a mental health professional. There are many effective treatments for depression, including therapy, medication, and alternative treatments. Learning about options will help decide what measures are most likely to work best for ones’ particular situation and needs.

Therapy: Some types of therapy teach practical techniques on how to reframe negative thinking and employ behavioral skills in combating depression. Therapy can also help to work through the root of depression, helping understand why one feels in a certain way, and what are the triggers for depression, and what can be done to stay healthy. Talk with your primary care physician about how you are feeling. Ask questions and follow through with the treatment that both you and your primary care physician/mental health professional decide is best for you, keep appointments, be open and honest.

Depression can be reliably diagnosed in primary care. Antidepressant medications and brief, structured forms of psychotherapy are effective for 60-80 % of those affected and can be delivered in primary care. However, fewer than 25 % of those affected (in some countries fewer than 10 %) receive such treatments. Barriers to effective care include the lack of resources, lack of trained providers, and the social stigma associated with mental disorders including depression.