As debilitating as depression can be, it is a highly treatable disease. The vast majority of those who suffer from it can be effectively treated and return to a normal life, doing all of their regular activities free from the crippling effects of the disease.
There are many ways to treat depression and the type that is chosen depends on the individual, the severity of the depression, and how well a person responds to the treatment. The most well-established ways to treat depression are medications, psychotherapy and electroconvulsive therapy (ECT).
For those who suffer from seasonal depression, daily exposure to bright light is often effective. These treatments can be used alone or together.
Antidepressant medication works well for many, however it can take two to four weeks before the medication starts to work and six to 12 weeks before an individual sees the full effect of antidepressants.
Medical research has demonstrated imbalances in neurotransmitters like serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine that occur in depression. Antidepressants can address these. Some people experience side effects from the medication including headaches, nausea, difficulty sleeping and nervousness, agitation and restlessness, and sexual difficulties.
While most antidepressants are not addictive, you should not stop taking the medication without your doctor’s consent. If you do notice unpleasant side effects, share that with your doctor as well. He or she may change the dosage or switch to a different medication. Most antidepressants require that you not drink alcohol or take illicit drugs. Some other prescribed medications and herbal supplements can also react negatively with antidepressants so make sure your doctor is aware of all the medications and herbal preparations you currently take.
Psychotherapy – the “talking” therapy – is also an effective tool in treating depression and can include cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and interpersonal therapy (IPT). These types of therapy help by teaching a depressed individual different ways of thinking and behaving and changing habits that may contribute to depression.
Specifically, cognitive behavioral therapy helps to change the negative thinking and behavior associated with depression while also teaching people how to unlearn the specific behaviors that contribute to their depression. Oftentimes, changing one’s behavior can lead to an improvement in thoughts and mood.
Interpersonal therapy focuses on improving individual relationships that may contribute to a person’s depression. In this therapy patients learn to evaluate the way they interact with others – peers and family members – and become more aware of their own isolation and difficulties in getting along with or understanding other people in their lives.
For severe depression that shows no improvement with either medication and/or psychotherapy, electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is sometimes recommended. Although formerly having a bad reputation, thanks primarily to its negative portrayal in movies, ECT is greatly improved and does provide relief for those whose symptoms are not helped by other treatments.
ECT is a series of treatments that entail a seizure occurring while the patient is under anesthesia. There are some side effects of electroconvulsive therapy including confusion and loss of memory but they are usually just temporary.
Recognizing depression as soon as it is occurs and seeking help from your doctor is important. With prompt treatment, a depressed person can return to a happier life and a healthier outlook on life.