Treatment options for depression

You probably know about therapy as a form of treatment for depression. It’s usually 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 teaches people of all ages and from all walks of life to think in healthier ways, and to cope with extreme emotions. Psychotherapy is helpful for many people with depression, but there are still many other people who need additional forms of treatment. Here are some of the other things to try in addition to psychotherapy.


Many people take medications to treat depression. Medication is an extremely effective tool, especially 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 react well to SSRIs, or have circumstances that lead them to try a different 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 focus entirely on themselves in a safe and supportive environment. In hospitals or residential treatment facilities, people are prescribed medication and see a therapist; eventually, family members are 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.

Brain stimulation therapies

These therapies are typically not used unless all other forms of treatment have failed, or there is an urgent need, like for somebody who is suicidal. Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), and vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) are among some of the forms of brain stimulation therapy used.

Alternative therapies

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 alternative treatments for depression include support groups, meditation, self-help materials like books or articles, and regular exercise, like yoga. 

A final note on treatment

It’s common for individuals 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 off-label and non-prescription 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 take precaution 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. Unfortunately, because of the nature of depression, it’s also nearly impossible to guarantee that the condition won’t ever return. 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 one that works the best.

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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