- What is depression?
- What are the different forms of depression?
- What are the signs and symptoms of depression?
- What causes depression?
- Does depression look the same in everyone?
- How is depression treated?
- How can I help a loved one who is depressed?
- How can I help myself if I am depressed?
- Where can I go for help?
- What if I or someone I know is in crisis?
How is depression treated?
The first step to getting the right treatment is to visit a doctor or mental health professional. He or she can do an exam or lab tests to rule out other conditions that may have the same symptoms as depression. He or she can also tell if certain medications you are taking may be affecting your mood.
The doctor should get a complete history of symptoms, including when they started, how long they have lasted, and how bad they are. He or she should also know whether they have occurred before, and if so, how they were treated. He or she should also ask if there is a history of depression in your family.
Medications called antidepressants can work well to treat depression. They can take several weeks to work.
Antidepressants can have side effects including:
- Nausea—feeling sick to your stomach
- Difficulty sleeping or nervousness
- Agitation or restlessness
- Sexual problems.
Most side effects lessen over time. Talk to your doctor about any side effects you have.
It's important to know that although antidepressants can be safe and effective for many people, they may present serious risks to some, especially children, teens, and young adults. A "black box"—the most serious type of warning that a prescription drug can have—has been added to the labels of antidepressant medications. These labels warn people that antidepressants may cause some people, especially those who become agitated when they first start taking the medication and before it begins to work, to have suicidal thoughts or make suicide attempts. Anyone taking antidepressants should be monitored closely, especially when they first start taking them. For most people, though, the risks of untreated depression far outweigh those of antidepressant medications when they are used under a doctor's careful supervision.
Psychotherapy can also help treat depression. Psychotherapy helps by teaching new ways of thinking and behaving, and changing habits that may be contributing to the depression. Therapy can help you understand and work through difficult relationships or situations that may be causing your depression or making it worse.
Electroconvulsive therapy. For severe depression that is very difficult to treat and does not respond to medication or therapy, electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is sometimes used. Although ECT once had a bad reputation, it has greatly improved and can provide relief for people for whom other treatments have not worked. ECT may cause side effects such as confusion and memory loss. Although these effects are usually short-term, they can sometimes linger.