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Treating Depression

Last updated on Saturday, March 30, 2013

Clinical depression is a chronic mood disorder that often requires long-term treatment. As a result, unfortunately, it can be very difficult for patients and their loved ones. Treatment varies from case to case by the patient's medical history, overall health, and response to medication, as well as the severity of the depression. But don't be discouraged! There are a myriad of options and resources available: psychotherapy, prescription medication, support groups, electroconvulsive therapy, and even natural herbal remedies. Most patients are able to resume living a normal lifestyle once they find the right combination of treatments.

The first step towards treating depression is to see a health care provider should one experience symptoms of depression. To obtain an accurate diagnosis, the physician will complete physical and psychological evaluations and examine the patient's medical and psychiatric history to rule out other conditions that may cause depressive symptoms. He or she may then suggest a course of treatment or refer the patient to a specialist (e.g., a psychiatrist). Most people find a combination of medication and psychotherapy most effective. If the patient has severe depression, he or she may need extra guidance from physicians and loved ones, a hospital stay, or participation in an outpatient treatment program until symptoms improve.

Numerous antidepressant medications are available, categorized by their effect on mood-regulating neurotransmitters. The most commonly prescribed antidepressants are SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) and SNRIs (serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors). If symptoms do not improve, the doctor may prescribe other drugs with potentially more severe side effects: NDRIs (norepinephrine-dopamine reuptake inhibitors), tricyclic antidepressants, and MAOIs (monoamine oxidase inhibitors). It may take up to eight weeks for these to take full effect, so be sure to consult a doctor before switching to a different medication. Stimulants, mood stabilizers, anti-anxiety, or antipsychotic medications may also be suggested.

Also known as "talk therapy," psychotherapy involves counseling sessions with a mental health provider. During these sessions, patients will explore, identify, and change their behaviors or thoughts to regain control over their lives. One type of psychotherapy—cognitive behavioral therapy—helps alleviate depression symptoms by allowing patients to identify and replace negative beliefs and behaviors with more optimistic ones. It is based on the idea that patients themselves can determine how they feel. Of course, many support groups are also available, where people can share their problems with others who are going through similar situations.

If standard depression treatments do not improve symptoms significantly, psychiatrists may suggest hospitalization, residential treatment programs, or other procedures.

  • In electroconvulsive therapy, electrical currents are passed through the brain to the levels of mood-regulating neurotransmitters. The procedure is generally considered safe.
  • In transcranial magnetic stimulation, an electromagnet coil is held near the forehead to induce an electric current in the brain. The magnetic field is thought to alter brain activity.
  • In Vagus nerve stimulation, a surgically implanted pulse generator will regularly send small electrical impulses to stimulate various mood centers of the brain in specific ways.

Aside from these, a healthy lifestyle may also provide relief for depressive symptoms.

  • It is important to stick to the treatment plans laid out by the health care providers, so be sure to consult a physician if you observe any changes in your mood or condition.
  • Try to maintain a healthy lifestyle: get plenty of sleep, exercise to reduce symptoms, keep to a well-balanced and nutritious diet, and seek out activities that you enjoy.
  • Be around caring, positive people more. They can help you overcome the sadness and frustration that you might experience. You can also volunteer and participate in activities to remain active as a part of the social world and keep your mind off your depression.
  • Avoid alcohol and drugs. They can often worsen symptoms and incite suicidal thoughts.

Just remember that your depression can be managed. With the right combination of patience, care, and treatment, you will be able to overcome it and return to your happy self again.

Tags: depressionmental healthpsychotherapyreuptake inhibitorstherapy

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