How do you treat depression?

Saying depression is hard is an understatement, and it sometimes feels like there is no way out. Fortunately, there are lots of options for individuals experiencing depression to cope and recover.

It’s important to mention that depression can look very different and can have many contributing factors. Life transitions, low self-esteem, trauma, other health conditions, family history, and biology can all contribute to depression. Some people may experience depression as sleeping too much, feeling exhausted, and losing pleasure and interest in things they used to care about. Others may experience it as feeling unable to eat, having trouble concentrating, and feeling empty. Still others might experience a sense of restlessness, worthlessness, and thoughts of death or suicide.

Because there are so many ways to experience depression, the most effective combination of support can also depend on the person. What works for one person may be more or less effective for someone else.

Some examples of how to treat depression include:

Therapy: There are many different types of therapy. It can be a great way to change behaviors, gain confidence, learn new skills, and talk with someone openly and honestly. One of the most common and researched types of therapy for depression is Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT). The two main aspects of CBT are focusing on developing helpful thoughts and beliefs and increasing behaviors that make us feel better.

Support groups: Support groups are made up of individuals with similar experiences, like depression, who meet regularly to discuss their experiences. There are many groups specific to depression, in addition to groups around broader issues. Talking to people who are going through the same things can make you feel less alone and more connected. It also creates a space where people can share what has worked for them and talk through their struggles with people who understand.

Medication: Although there is no cure for depression, many people find medication helpful in dealing with depression. Medications can be prescribed by a psychiatrist or your primary care physician. Antidepressants impact your brain's circuits and neurotransmitters. Antidepressants typically take 4-6 weeks for individuals to notice a change in symptoms. It's helpful to keep in mind that other biological factors can impact your depression - such as hormones or inflammation.

Device based treatments: When medication treatments don't work, people can explore the use of devise based treatments for depression.  These treatments include Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), Vagus Nerve Stimulation (VNS), Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TmS), or Cranial Electrotherapy Stimulation (CES).  Some of these procedures are done in a hospital under the care of a doctor. CES is used at home and is a small devise. You'll have to check with your insurance company if any of these treatments are covered.

Lifestyle Changes: Research shows exercise, meditation, and yoga can all improve mood and overall wellbeing. Research also shows the importance of nutrition and certain supplements in supporting brain and mood. Basically your brain is made of fat and needs good fat to work well. As hard as it is to eat veggies and exercise - they are the stuff of good health.  If you're working on changing healthy habits - take it slow so you have early and easy wins. Other things like taking time to take care of yourself, trying activities you enjoy, and spending time with people or environments where you feel supported can help as well. Some find it important to reduce or eliminate the use of drugs and alcohol when they are struggling with depression.

While there is no one simple answer, people do recover with a combination of supports. It can take some time to find out what works best for you, but it does get better.

Treatment & Resources