There is no cure for depression, but many different treatments are available to manage the symptoms.
The symptoms of depression vary among individuals. A treatment plan that includes medical interventions, support, and lifestyle changes can enable a person to live a normal and full life with the condition. However, finding the right treatment plan is a process that can take time.
Alternative remedies cannot treat depression on their own, but some may complement traditional medical treatment and therapy.
Keep reading to learn more.
Depression is a lifelong condition, as there is no cure. However, this does not necessarily mean that it will affect a person every day of their life. With the right treatment plan, remission is possible. The treatment plan may need adjusting throughout a person’s life.
Depression is one of the most treatable mental health conditions. Between 80% and 90% of people with depression respond well to treatment, meaning that they see an improvement in their symptoms or the symptoms disappear.
It is common for a person with depression to experience depressive episodes between longer periods of remission in which they have no symptoms.
Not everyone who recovers from depression will need ongoing treatment, but those who do may have a depressive episode if they stop treatment.
Although a person may not have any symptoms of depression for years, a period of stress, a significant life change, or bereavement could trigger a depressive episode.
It is not always possible to predict the triggers for depression. Some people may find that noting the events, feelings, and situations that came just before a depressive episode helps them pinpoint a possible cause. Being aware of their triggers may help a person avoid depressive episodes in the future.
After a depressive episode, a person may wish to review their treatment plan. Medication, therapy, or support may need adjusting.
Stress is a common trigger for depression. Managing stress can help prevent symptoms of depression. Some suggestions for managing stress include:
- drinking plenty of fluids
- eating a healthful diet
- getting enough sleep
- talking to family or friends
- limiting alcohol and caffeine consumption
- practicing mindfulness
- taking on less responsibility at work
It is not always possible to avoid stress. Moving home, a busy period at work, or relationship difficulties can all be a part of life. If a person knows that they have a stressful event in the near future, careful planning can help lower the risk of it triggering a depressive episode.
A person can talk to family and friends about support and coping strategies. Good organization and planning for change can help. It can also be beneficial to take a break from work, where possible, or free up time on weekends to relax.
About 15.7 million adults in the United States have experienced depression, but only around one-third of these individuals have sought treatment.
People may avoid seeking treatment because they think that the problem is not serious, that depression is shameful or a weakness, or that they can treat it themselves. Depression is a serious medical condition that needs treatment from a professional.
Depression can be mild, moderate, or severe:
- mild depression has some effect on daily life
- moderate depression has a significant impact on daily life
- severe depression can make daily life impossible
The treatment plan will depend on the severity and type of the symptoms and what the person wants from treatment. A medical professional can help the person put together a treatment plan. This plan can include therapy, medication, and lifestyle measures.
For mild depression, exercise, self-help, and therapy can work well. For moderate depression, a doctor may recommend medication. Severe depression often requires a combination of therapy and medication.
Learn more about the types of depression here.
Two forms of psychotherapy that professionals commonly use to treat depression are cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and interpersonal therapy (IPT).
CBT can help a person understand their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. It can help them overcome negative thoughts and build a more positive view of themselves.
IPT focuses on personal relationships. It can help a person whose depression has an association with relationship or communication difficulties.
An antidepressant is a medication that treats depression by adjusting chemical levels in the brain. Many different types of antidepressants are available. A person’s symptoms and medical history can help inform the prescription.
Antidepressants can have some side effects, but these tend to decrease in severity the longer the person takes the medication. A person should not stop taking antidepressants until they have consulted a medical professional. A doctor can advise on how to reduce the dose safely over time.
It can take time to find the right treatment for depression, and the process can be frustrating. A person may take a medication but find that they still have symptoms. Or they may have therapy and still experience a depressive episode.
A person may look to alternative, complementary, or integrative medicine for help with depression. To explain these terms:
- complementary therapies go alongside traditional treatment or medicine
- alternative therapies replace traditional treatment or medicine
- integrative health focuses on coordinating traditional treatment or medicine with complementary therapies
There is little evidence that alternative therapies can treat depression. In some cases, they could be dangerous if a person uses them in place of conventional treatment.
Some people with depression find that complementary therapies help them manage the condition, alongside medication and therapy. Complementary therapies include homeopathy, acupuncture, and herbal medicine.
A 2019 review of complementary and alternative medicine for treating depression looked at the evidence for different therapies. The authors made the following conclusions:
- Acupuncture: Unlikely to have any positive effect on symptoms of depression.
- Aromatherapy: Very little scientific evidence available, but studies suggest that it provides some relief for feelings of depression in healthy adults.
- Light therapy: Not enough evidence of any positive effects on depression symptoms.
- Mindfulness: Some evidence that it could reduce the risk of relapse.
- St. John’s wort: This herb may help reduce the severity of depression compared with a placebo. However, it can affect how well other medications work.
- Yoga: Not enough evidence of any positive effects on depression symptoms.
A 2018 review looked at the evidence for using homeopathy to treat depression. The authors found limited research but noted that people who used homeopathy to treat depression reported an improvement in symptoms. Homeopathy may offer some benefits in comparison with a placebo.
Hydrotherapy is the use of water to treat depression. Although low risk, there is little evidence that it can reduce the symptoms of depression.
Ayahuasca is a psychoactive drug that changes how the brain works and, therefore, alters a person’s thoughts and feelings. A small 2017 study found that the drug had short-term positive effects on people whose depression had not responded positively to other treatments. The study stressed the importance of a safe, controlled setting and warned of the possible risk of psychosis.
Learn more about some herbs that may help with depression here.
Certain lifestyle measures can support a person in managing depression. A treatment plan usually includes suggestions for healthful habits. These can include:
- keeping a diary to track thoughts and feelings
- exercising regularly
- adopting a healthful diet and drinking plenty of fluids
- practicing mindfulness
- talking to friends, family, or a support group
- avoiding tobacco, alcohol, and recreational drugs
- keeping to a routine
- setting achievable goals
- finding a hobby or trying something new
- taking on manageable responsibility or volunteering
Although depression has no cure, many effective treatments are available to manage the condition.
Every person is different, and individually tailored treatment is important. Finding the right treatment can help a person live with depression without symptoms.
Alternative therapies are not a replacement for medication and therapy, but, alongside conventional treatments, they may help a person manage depression symptoms.