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Depression Help: Basic Information and Treatment Options

Are you, or is someone you love, suffering from depression? You’re not alone. Depression affects 20.9 million people (9.5% of the population) in any given one year period1.

You may be thinking you’re "crazy" or "weak" or that you should "just get over it." These are some of the common misconceptions people believe which often prevent them from getting the depression help they need. Stigma still exists for depression, but it is a real illness just like having a medical condition such as diabetes or cancer. Of course, we wouldn’t judge someone if they had cancer and the same should be applied to depressed people. Depression is a serious disorder involving changes in brain chemistry, emotions, cognitive and even bodily functions that can seriously interfere with your daily living. Treating depression is an important matter. Without proper treatment, depression can get worse and be potentially dangerous (e.g. lead to suicidal behavior).

If you’re wondering whether you’re depressed, read about the signs of depression. You can also take a depression test to help determine your likelihood of having a depressive disorder and need for further evaluation and treatment. Here is just a brief summary of the prominent features of major depression. In the past two weeks or more, you may feel depressed most of the time or not interested in anything to the point where it is affecting your life (e.g. missing work, school, isolating from people). You may experience weight changes, trouble sleeping, low energy, feeling worthless, difficulty concentrating or making decisions. At its extreme, you may feel hopeless or suicidal.

Fortunately, depression relief and recovery is possible. This site was created with the mission to provide simple information about depression to help inform, decrease stigma and encourage individuals to get the help they need. You will learn about the signs, types and causes of depression, tests, different treatment options, antidepressants and natural remedies for depression. There are also helpful articles and depression self-help resources. Armed with the right information, you can make a choice about the next step to take in getting help for depression.

Depression Treatment Steps Overview:

  • Medical Examination – First, see a doctor for a physical examination to rule out any physical causes. Certain medical conditions can cause depression such as hypothyroidism, diabetes, anemia, asthma, chronic pain, chronic fatigue syndrome, congestive heart failure, multiple sclerosis and AIDS. Also, certain drugs can cause depression symptoms (e.g. alcohol, anti-anxiety drugs, medicines for high blood pressure, birth control pills).
  • Assessment - A mental health provider will interview you to assess if you have clinical depression. To tailor the best treatment, you will also be evaluated to determine the type of depression you are experiencing. You may also be given a depression quiz or screening to help with diagnosing depression and evaluate the severity of your symptoms.
  • Treatments for Depression - Research has shown that a combination of therapy and medication is most effective. (For individuals who do not prefer depression medicines as a treatment option, there are alternative treatments for depression such as St. John’s Wort, exercise, acupuncture.) Treating someone with anti-depressants alone may improve depressive symptoms, but will not help one deal with things that worsen or trigger depression. Therapy can make coping with depression easier. Not only can it help improve symptoms, therapy is useful for treating psychological causes of depression and developing coping skills.

    Common Types of Psychotherapy for Depression:

    • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) – CBT is one of the most popular treatments for overcoming depression. CBT is based on the idea that thoughts greatly affect how one feels and thus behaves. Therefore to have the greatest impact on feelings and behavior, the focus of change is on one’s thinking. Accordingly, this treatment focuses on changing the negative thinking and distorted thoughts (cognitive restructuring) associated with depression. CBT is usually brief and involves “homework” to help develop new skills and behaviors.
    • Interpersonal Therapy (IPT) – IPT was originally created to treat individuals who are depressed. This depression treatment is usually brief and focuses on one’s difficult personal relationships. The basis of IPT is the view that relational factors (ways one relates to others) have a great impact on depression. In order to alleviate or lessen depression, relationship difficulties must be addressed.
    • Solution-Focused Therapy (SFT) – This therapy focuses more on solutions (and what an individual hopes to accomplish) rather than problems. SFT assumes that individuals are the experts and have within them the solutions to their difficulties. A therapist using this kind of therapy guides clients and asks certain questions to elicit current resources, strengths and possible solutions that move toward beating depression.

    Treatments for Severe Depression (or More Resistant):

    • Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT) – Often, ECT is used for fighting depression that is difficult to treat. This treatment for resistant depression involves electrically producing small seizures in the brain by passing electrical current through electrodes placed on the scalp. Unlike the past application of ECT, a lower voltage is used unilaterally (not on the whole brain). Before treating an individual with ECT, anesthesia and a muscle relaxant are given to decrease the risk of injury. ECT’s major benefit is its fast results. Individuals begin feeling better right away. A disadvantage is memory loss of events right before treatment. (Some experts believe this memory loss is short-term.)
    • Transcranial Magnetic Simulation for Depression (TMS) – A less invasive approach than ECT, this fairly new treatment for depression involves exposing the brain to electro-magnetic energy which leads to changes in brain activity. This is done by placing an electromagnetic coil on the scalp which produces magnetic pulses. TMS was first used in the mid-1980’s to research the workings of the brain. More studies are indicating its usefulness in dealing with depression (improving mood with little side effects) and other brain illnesses.

Notes:

  1. Depression Statistics Source: National Institute of Mental Health. Click here for a NIMH booklet – PDF File (NIH Publication No. 02-3561) with more information about the causes and types of depression, symptoms of depression, treatments, ways to cope and how to help a depressed person.

 

Also see: [ depression test ] [ antidepressants ] [ natural remedies for depression ]

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DISCLAIMER

The depression information provided is for educational and informational purposes only. This information should not replace proper evaluation and treatment of depression by a health care/mental health professional. Before taking any action, please consult with a health care/mental health professional. Please see Terms of Use for more information.

 

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