Depression: Management, Medications, and Treatment Options

Depression is a medical condition in which a person feels sad, hopeless, and down for a long time. This condition can affect a person’s whole life, from their school or work to their relationships with family and friends. It’s a very common condition that affects millions of people all over the world.1

When someone is going through a depressive episode, it can feel like they are carrying a heavy weight that they can’t shake off. They might lose interest in things they used to enjoy, feel tired all the time, and have trouble sleeping or concentrating. These feelings can last for weeks or months, and it can be hard for the person to see a way out.1

There are different types of depression. Major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, seasonal affective disorder, and depression after giving birth (postpartum) are some of the most common types of depression. Each type of depression has its own signs and strategies to treat it, so it’s important to get an accurate diagnosis from a mental health professional.2

Approaches to Managing Symptoms of Depression

Managing depression can be a challenging and prolonged process, but with the assistance of a mental health expert and the development of effective coping techniques, it is possible to achieve a better quality of life and a more positive outlook for the future. If you are dealing with depression, it may help to work with a mental health worker to develop a treatment plan that works for you.

The following are potential approaches to deal with symptoms of depression3:

Seek Professional Help

Depression is a complex medical condition that needs to be treated by a medical professional. A mental health worker can help you figure out what your symptoms mean and how to treat them. Possible treatments include therapy, medicine, or a mix of the two.

Practice Self-Care

Taking care of yourself is very important when you have depression. This means getting enough sleep, eating well, and working out often. It may include mindfulness practices. Exercising has been shown to make people feel better and reduce the effects of depression.

Stay Away from Drugs and Alcohol

Avoid using substances like alcohol or illicit drugs if you’re trying to manage your depression. Avoiding these drugs can greatly enhance one’s odds of overcoming substance abuse and getting back on track with one’s life.

Stay Connected

Keep in touch with others; feeling depressed can make you feel alone and close yourself off from the world. Even if you don’t feel like it, maintaining social ties is crucial. You can also feel less isolated by joining a support group or engaging in hobbies you enjoy.

Manage Stress

Reducing your tension levels can help relieve your depression. Practicing stress-reduction methods like deep breathing, meditation, or yoga is important.

Identify Triggers

Understand what triggers your depression and take steps to avoid it. Identifying these triggers can help you avoid or manage them better.

Practice Positive Self-Talk

Talk to yourself positively. Self-criticism can amplify the negative effects of depression. Negative ideas must be questioned and replaced with positive thoughts.

Treatments for Depression

Depression can be effectively treated with a range of options, such as medication (pharmacotherapy), psychotherapy, and lifestyle changes. The most appropriate treatment approach varies depending on the individual’s specific needs and the severity of their symptoms.

Seeking professional help and the support of loved ones is essential for finding an effective treatment. In this section, we discuss different strategies to treat depression symptoms.

Medication for Depression

Common approaches to managing depression include the use of medications. Some antidepressants, along with their adverse and beneficial effects, are listed below.4

It may take several weeks for antidepressants to take effect, and not all medications are appropriate for every individual. Also, each drug can have different side effects and effects on the body, so it’s important to work with a doctor to figure out the best way to treat oneself. Medication can be used alone or in combination with other treatments for depression, such as psychological therapy and lifestyle changes.

Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs)

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are the prescription drugs that doctors recommend most frequently to depressed patients. They work by increasing the levels of the brain chemical (neurotransmitter) serotonin in the brain, which helps keep moods stable. Fluoxetine, sertraline, and escitalopram are all common SSRIs. Some of the side effects associated with SSRIs can include nausea, difficulty falling asleep, and sexual dysfunction.

Serotonin-Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRIs)

The beneficial effect of serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) is based on their ability to elevate brain levels of the neurotransmitters serotonin and norepinephrine. Venlafaxine and duloxetine are two widely used SNRIs. Nausea, sleeplessness, and high blood pressure are just some of the possible side effects of SNRIs.

Tricyclic Antidepressants (TCAs)

Tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs) increase serotonin and norepinephrine levels in the brain. This makes more of these neurotransmitters available for their antidepressant effect. The higher levels of norepinephrine and serotonin in the brain likely add to its ability to treat depression. Common examples of TCAs include amitriptyline, amoxapine, desipramine, etc.

Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors (MAOIs)

Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) work by preventing an enzyme in the brain—monoamine oxidase—from breaking down serotonin and norepinephrine. MAOIs like phenelzine and tranylcypromine are often used. MAOIs can cause high blood pressure as a potential side effect, and they may require certain dietary restrictions. For instance, some foods like cheese and wine should be avoided while taking MAOIs to prevent adverse reactions.

Atypical Antidepressants

Atypical antidepressants are newer medications that work in a different way than other antidepressants (hence called atypical). Bupropion, which works by increasing the levels of dopamine in the brain, and mirtazapine, which works by blocking certain serotonin receptors, are two examples of these types of drugs. Side effects vary depending on the medication.

Psychological Treatments for Depression

Though medicines (pharmacotherapy) are often used to treat depression, psychological therapies are also very successful and are sometimes used as an initial treatment or in addition to medication.

Here are some of the most frequently used psychological methods to cope with depression through therapy:

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a short-term planned therapy that focuses on identifying and changing negative thought patterns and behaviors that contribute to depression. It trains people to recognize and question their negative thoughts and beliefs, as well as to create more optimistic and practical thought patterns. CBT has been shown to be extremely successful in the treatment of depression.5

Interpersonal Therapy (IPT)

Interpersonal therapy (IPT) is a brief, time-limited treatment aimed at improving interpersonal connections and communication skills. It relies on the idea that relationship problems can induce depression and that strengthening these relationships can contribute to a change in mood. IPT usually consists of weekly lessons lasting 12-16 weeks and has been shown to be successful in the treatment of depression.5

Psychodynamic Therapy

Psychodynamic therapy is a longer-term therapy that explores the patient’s unconscious patterns of behavior and thoughts. It tries to identify unresolved issues and events that may add to depression. This therapy can help patients obtain insight into their feelings and behaviors, as well as create new coping strategies.5

Mindfulness-Based Therapies

Mindfulness-based therapy, such as mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT), aims to show individuals how to pay attention to the present moment and accept what they are feeling and thinking without judgment. This therapy can help people create positive thinking patterns if they tend to fixate or linger on negative thoughts.5

Behavioral Activation (BA)

Behavioral activation (BA) is a therapy that aims to increase a patient’s participation in positive activities, such as hobbies or interactions with others. BA is based on the idea that depression can cause patients to withdraw from pleasurable activities, causing symptoms to worsen. Patients’ moods may improve by encouraging their participation in pleasurable activities.5

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)

Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) is a type of therapy that helps people become more adaptable in their minds and accept bad thoughts and feelings without trying to change or control them. It encourages people to think about what they value and affirm the right to act in ways that reflect those beliefs. This therapy has been shown to help treat depression, especially in people who have not responded well to other treatments.5

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)

Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) is a therapy that was developed for people with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), but it has also been shown to be helpful in treating depression. In EMDR, the patient thinks about upsetting memories while moving their eyes. This is thought to help the brain deal with memories healthily. This treatment has been shown to help people with depression caused by traumatic events.6

Group Therapy

In group therapy, a group of individuals with depression get together regularly to talk about what they are experiencing and support each other. This therapy can be especially helpful for people who feel alone or have a hard time establishing relationships. Group therapy can be led by a mental health professional or by peers, and it can help treat depression.5

In general, psychological treatments play an important role in depression treatment. They can be used in addition to pharmacotherapy to bring about better results. A mental health professional can help guide the patient in selecting the most appropriate treatment plan.

Living with Depression

It’s essential to keep in mind that you have support from people who understand how challenging it can be to live with depression. Seeking professional help from a mental health practitioner and talking to a friend or relative you can trust can be helpful. Taking care of yourself by eating right, exercising regularly, and having plenty of sleep is equally important. If you’re struggling with depression, finding a support group where you can talk to people who understand what you’re going through can be very beneficial.1

Future of Depression Treatments

Antidepressants can help some people, but they can also have side effects and may not be beneficial for everyone. Psychotherapy can also take an extensive amount of time and cost a lot of money, so not everyone can afford it.

That’s why researchers are exploring new ways to help people with depression. A new approach called precision medicine may help doctors choose the best treatment for people with depression. 7 This approach looks at the specific type of depression a person has based on their symptoms, like feeling sad all the time, having strange thoughts, or feeling anxious. Then, doctors can choose a medication that’s most likely to help that specific type of depression.

However, it’s not just about the type of depression someone has. Precision medicine also takes into account other things that make each person unique, like their personality, personal preferences, and any other health problems they might have. By looking at all these factors, doctors can create a personalized treatment plan that’s more likely to work for each individual.

This is different from the way depression has been treated in the past, when everyone with depression was given the same medication without considering their individual differences. By using a bottom-up approach, doctors can tailor treatment to each person’s specific needs and help them feel better faster.

Another novel approach to treating depression is deep brain stimulation8, in which a surgeon puts electrodes in your brain that send tiny zaps (electrical impulses) to help with your symptoms. It’s kind of like a pacemaker for your mood. Even though it’s not available for everyone yet, it might be soon because technology is getting better all the time.

The drug SAGE-217 is another emerging therapy.9 If you’ve suffered from depression in the past, this medication may help prevent a recurrence. You wouldn’t wait for your symptoms to worsen before taking it; rather, you’d take it as soon as you realized they were reappearing.

Psilocybin, which is found in magic mushrooms, is another compound that has attracted a lot of interest.10 Psilocybin’s antidepressant effects have been studied, and they appear to be both faster-acting and longer-lasting than those of ketamine. More study is necessary to determine whether this treatment is safe and successful in treating depression.

Furthermore, recent research indicates that changes in lifestyle choices, nutrition, and sleep routines can all help in the treatment of depression. Individuals with depression may be able to manage their symptoms and improve their quality of life by prioritizing their health and happiness.11

In conclusion, while there is still a lot to discover about how to effectively treat depression, we can find hope in recent advances in the field. By combining different approaches such as medication, talk therapy, lifestyle changes, and support from loved ones, we can better address the needs of individuals struggling with depression. With continued research and innovative thinking, we can look forward to more effective and personalized treatments for those who suffer from this challenging condition.

Last updated: 07/21/2023Last medically reviewed: 06/16/2023

Medical Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is not a substitute for the advice of qualified healthcare professionals. While we strive to publish accurate information, it is not possible to cover all potential scenarios, including drug or treatment effects, interactions, or usage. You should not rely solely on this article to determine whether a particular treatment, drug, or clinical trial is suitable for you or any other individual. Always consult a healthcare professional before starting or changing any treatments.


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