- What is depression?
- What are the different forms of depression?
- What are the signs and symptoms of depression?
- What causes depression?
- How is depression treated?
- How can I help a loved one who is depressed?
- How can I help myself if I am depressed?
- If you are in a crisis
- For more information on Older Adults and Depression
How is depression treated?
The first step to getting appropriate treatment is to visit a doctor. Certain medications or conditions can cause symptoms similar to depression. A doctor can rule out these factors by doing a complete physical exam, interview, and lab tests.
If these other factors can be ruled out, the doctor may refer you to a mental health professional, such as a psychologist, counselor, social worker, or psychiatrist. Some doctors are specially trained to treat depression and other mental illnesses in older adults.
The doctor or mental health professional will ask about the history of your symptoms, such as when they started, how long they have lasted, their severity, whether they have occurred before, and if so, whether they were treated and how. He or she will then diagnose the depression and work with you to choose the most appropriate treatment.
It is important to remember that a person with depression cannot simply "snap out of it." Treatment choices differ for each person, and sometimes different treatments must be tried until you find one that works.
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.
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 (ECT) is sometimes used for severe depression that is very difficult to treat and does not respond to medication or therapy. 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.