Treatment options for depression

You may know about therapy as a form of treatment for depression. It’s often the first step when finding the right treatment for depression. There are different types of therapy, and what someone uses depends on individual factors, but for the most part, it involves a patient and licensed professional talking together. Psychotherapy is helpful for many people with depression, but there are many people who need other types of treatment, in addition to therapy. Here are some of the other things they may try in addition to psychotherapy.


Many people take medications to treat depression. While medication usually isn’t the first or only form of treatment for depression, especially moderate depression, it is an extremely effective tool when combined with counseling. There are generally three categories of medication for depression.

  • Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI) antidepressants: Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that helps regulate mood, social behavior, appetite and digestion, and libido, among other things. SSRIs are commonly prescribed for depression because they increase serotonin levels in the brain. Examples of SSRIs include citalopram (Celexa), escitalopram (Lexapro), fluoxetine (Prozac), paroxetine (Paxil), sertraline (Zoloft), and vilazodone (Vibryd).
  • Non-SSRI antidepressants: Some people don’t physically react well to SSRIs, or have circumstances that require them to use other types of medication. Some non-SSRIs increase serotonin levels, while others do not. Two common types of these are serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), like Cymbalta, or norepinephrine-dopamine reuptake inhibitors (NDRIs), like Wellbutrin.
  • Other medications: It’s not uncommon for a provider to combine medications or even add a medication to balance out the effects of an antidepressant. Some examples of medications that can be used this way are mood stabilizers and antipsychotic medication. Anti-anxiety medications might be prescribed, but these aren’t usually used long-term.

Hospital and residential treatment

Sometimes, in more severe cases of depression, people go to a hospital or other care facility, especially if they’re at risk of harming themselves or others. Inpatient programs help people get focused treatment in a safe and supportive environment. In hospitals or residential treatment facilities, people are prescribed medication and see a therapist; eventually, family members are also incorporated into treatment.

There’s also the option for someone to be in an outpatient program. With this sort of program, a person visits the facility for a period of time to use the services it provides, but is not admitted to the hospital.

Other therapies

Other forms of treatment include electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), and vagus nerve stimulation (VNS). These are all forms of brain stimulation.

Lifestyle interventions

Because depression has so many different causes, there are also a lot of different ways that people with depression cope and find relief. Some of the more common lifestyle interventions for depression include support groups, meditation, self-help materials like books or articles, and regular exercise, like yoga. These lifestyle changes can be very helpful in addition to treatment, but aren’t a replacement for it.

A final note on treatment

It’s common for people who are afraid to seek treatment, or who are already on medication but don’t yet feel their best, to seek out alternative therapies like supplements or non-prescription medications or drugs to treat their depression. But this can be dangerous, particularly for individuals who are currently taking depression medication. It’s important to speak with a provider before starting any kind of regimen. This is even more true for individuals who are already on depression medication, as the medication can have side effects and interactions with different supplements and drugs. Make sure to be careful and speak with your provider before you make any changes to your lifestyle.

Depression is complex, so it makes sense that treatment for depression would be too. Some people will find that one medication is enough for them to function and feel better, while others need to try a variety of things before they find something that works for them. The most important thing you can do when considering options for depression treatment is to keep an open mind and be willing to try a number of treatments to find the ones that work the best for you. The sooner you start figuring out which types of treatment work best for you, the sooner you’ll be able to start feeling better.

Read more
  • Lauren Hardy. “Depression Treatment: Outpatient vs. Inpatient.” HealthyPlace., Feb 26 2014. Web.
  • Mayo Clinic Staff. “Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT).” MayoClinic. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, Sep 19 2015. Web.
  • Mayo Clinic Staff. “Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).” MayoClinic. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, Jun 24 2016. Web.
  • Mayo Clinic Staff. “Treatments and Drugs.” MayoClinic. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, Jul 7 2016. Web.
  • Melinda Smith, Jeanne Segal. “Types of Antidepressants and Their Side Effects.” HelpGuide., May 2016. Web.
  • “Brain Stimulation Therapies.” NIMH. US Department of Health and Human Services, Jun 2016. Web.
  • “Depression: Care and Treatment.” ClevelandClinic. The Cleveland Clinic Foundation, 2014. Web.
  • “Depression: Treatment.” ADAA. Anxiety and Depression Association of America, 2016. Web.
  • “Depression Treatment & Management.” Medscape. WebMD LLC., Apr 29 2016. Web.
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