When you’re depressed, it can feel like you’ll never get out from under a dark shadow. However, even the most severe depression is treatable. So, if your depression is keeping you from living the life you want to, don’t hesitate to seek help. Learning about your depression treatment options will help you decide which approach is right for you. From therapy to medication to healthy lifestyle changes, there are many effective treatments that can help you overcome depression, feel happy and hopeful again, and reclaim your life.
Therapy and “the big picture” in depression treatment
One of the hallmarks of depression is feeling overwhelmed and having trouble focusing. Therapy helps you step back and see what might be contributing to your depression and how you can make changes. Here are some of the “big picture” themes that therapy can help with:
Relationships. Understanding the patterns in your relationships, building better relationships, and improving current relationships will help reduce isolation and build social support, important in preventing depression.
Setting healthy boundaries. If you are stressed and overwhelmed, and feel like you just can’t say no, you are more at risk for depression. Setting healthy boundaries in relationships and at work can help relieve stress, and therapy can help you identify and validate the boundaries that are right for you.
Handling life’s problems. Talking with a trusted therapist can provide good feedback on more positive ways to handle life’s challenges and problems.
Treating depression with medication
Medications can be helpful to reduce symptoms of depression, particularly in cases of moderate to severe depression. However, given the potential side effects, medication use requires close monitoring by the physician or psychiatrist who prescribes the drugs. More importantly, medication only provides temporary relief from depression and more should be done to address the root causes and contributors to depression.
There are some common categories of antidepressant medications including, but not limited to, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (e.g. Celexa®, Prozac®, Luvox®, Paxil®, Zoloft®), tricyclics (e.g. Elavil®, Anafranil®, Tofranil®), and monoamine oxidase inhibitors (e.g. Nardil®, Parnate®, Marplan®). A treating physician will prescribe the most suitable treatment medication, if necessary.
It is important to be educated about medications taken for any illness, and depression is no different. Here are some general questions that may be asked of a doctor or pharmacist:
- How long will it take before I feel better?
- How often, and how much, do I take?
- What are the possible side effects, if any, and what can I do to best manage them?
- What is the best-tolerated treatment for my particular situation?
- Will this medication interfere with other medication(s) or herbal remedies that I take?
- Do I have allergies to this medication?
- What should I do if I don’t feel better or if I miss a dose?
- Is there any written information I can get about this medication?
- Is there anything I should not do when taking this medication (e.g., operate heavy machinery, consume alcohol)?
Treating depression with counselling
Antidepressant medications can help improve mood. However, the personal, family or workplace situations that may have contributed to low mood and other depression symptoms may still be there.
Counselling can help:
- Pinpoint life problems that contribute to depression
- Review options and goals to enhance well-being
- Identify thinking patterns that contribute to feelings of hopelessness
- Fill life with rewarding and pleasurable activities
As with medication, there are different kinds of counselling. Two common methods are described below:
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. The “gold standard” of treating depression, sometimes combined with medication and sometimes not, is a counselling therapy called Cognitive Behaviour Therapy. This therapy helps to identify and change unrealistic and negative thinking that can contribute to depression and its symptoms. In addition, cognitive therapy helps with the development of healthy behaviours and problem-solving skills.
Interpersonal Therapy. This therapy helps with the development of new skills for creating healthy and satisfying relationships with partners, friends, co-workers and family. This therapy can assist with understanding the connection between depression and life events (e.g. grief, conflict at work).
Which treatment option is best for me?
Medication and counselling are both successful at treating the symptoms of depression. Sometimes these therapies are used alone and sometimes in combination. The choice of which particular therapy is best for depression is always done in consultation with a health care provider who will consider the following:
- Is there a medical reason to avoid certain medications (e.g. pregnancy, breast feeding)?
- Is there a history of depression and treating it before? If so, what worked?
- Age and general health
- Severity of the depression
- Personal preferences and likelihood of completing the therapy (e.g. taking medication as prescribed, attending counselling sessions)
- Other life stressors that may be worsening depression symptoms
When the going gets tough in therapy…
As with remodeling a house, when you take apart things that haven’t worked well in your life, it often makes them seem worse before they get better. When therapy seems difficult or painful, don’t give up. If you discuss your feelings and reactions honestly with your therapist, it will help you move forward rather than retreat back to your old, less effective ways. However, if the connection with your therapist consistently starts to feel forced or uncomfortable, don’t be afraid to explore other options for therapy as well.
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- What is depression? American Psychiatric Association. Retrieved October 4, 2018 from: https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/depression/what-is-depression.