Depression is a mood disorder that can significantly affect people’s lives. Getting help can be the first step to recovery, whether it is trying therapy, medication, or joining a support group. Many organizations and resources are available to help people find treatment.

Research suggests that depression responds well to treatment, and often people benefit from trying a combination of different treatments and methods. Education, social support, therapy, and medications can all help manage the condition.

Many organizations can assist individuals in finding resources, mental health providers, and support groups to help them manage their depression.

This article covers different treatments for depression and the routes a person can take to get support.

A hand reaching out to touch it's shadow on a pink tiled wall. People with depression can reach our for help from various organisations and healthcare professionals who can provide treatment and support.Share on Pinterest
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A person may benefit from the support of licensed, trained mental health professionals with experience helping people with depression.

Psychotherapy — also called counseling or talk therapy — can equip individuals with new ways to think and behave and reshape their habits that contribute to depression. This may occur in a one-on-one setup or a group setting.

Examples of therapy for depression include cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and interpersonal therapy (IPT). According to 2020 research, they are as effective as antidepressant medications in the acute phase of depression.

Cognitive behavioral therapy

CBT involves identifying, challenging, and changing unhelpful behavior and thinking patterns that contribute to depression.

Learn more about CBT for depression.

A review of multiple studies found that CBT combined with pharmacotherapy — treatment with medication — is more effective in treating depression than pharmacotherapy alone. Individuals receiving CBT are also less likely to relapse than those treated with medications alone.

Interpersonal therapy

IPT focuses on improving a person’s relationship with others by teaching them how to communicate more effectively and tackle issues in healthier ways.

This type of therapy can help people adapt to challenging life events and improve their social skills.

Other therapy types

The American Psychiatric Association (APA) recommends other psychotherapy interventions for the treatment of depression:

People can use the behavioral health treatment services locator by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to find a treatment facility in their area.

Learn more about the different types of therapy for depression.

Strong evidence confirms the effectiveness of mental health support groups in people with mental illnesses like depression.

The Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) is an international nonprofit organization dedicated to preventing and treating various mental health conditions, including depression.

ADAA allows individuals with depression to connect with others experiencing anxiety, depression, and other related disorders. They offer free support groups virtually or in person across the United States, Canada, and Australia.

The National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI) offers two types of peer-led support groups:

Learn more about finding support groups for depression.

Healthcare professionals often prescribe antidepressants for the treatment of depression. They tailor these to the individual, depending on their tolerance and response to a specific drug and its dosage.

Antidepressants typically take 4–8 weeks to work and often improve symptoms such as concentration, sleep, and appetite before a person notices an improvement in their mood.

All medications can have side effects, so it is important for people to speak with a healthcare professional about these before taking antidepressants.

Different types of medication for depression are as follows.

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are a type of antidepressant. Healthcare professionals often use SSRIs as the first choice of medication for people with depression due to their efficacy and lower risk of side effects.

Researchers believe that depression results from serotonin deficiency. Serotonin is a brain chemical that plays a role in stabilizing mood, and SSRIs work by increasing serotonin activity in a person’s brain.

Serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors

Serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) are another antidepressant used to treat depression, which work similarly to SSRIs.

Some people may respond well to SSRIs, while others may respond better to SNRIs. SNRIs can also benefit people who experience pain syndromes or significant fatigue associated with depressive episodes.

Other medication types

Other types of antidepressants include:

  • N-methyl D-aspartate (NMDA) antagonists
  • tricyclic and tetracyclic antidepressants
  • atypical antidepressants
  • monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs), although healthcare professionals rarely prescribe these due to their higher risk of side effects

Spravato (esketamine) is a newer drug that may help people with treatment-resistant depression. It acts more rapidly than other antidepressants and can relieve depression symptoms within a few hours.

Another new fast-acting antidepressant is Auvelity, which contains dextromethorphan and bupropion.

Healthcare professionals may also prescribe additional medications that may make an antidepressant more effective.

These include:

There are various other treatment options for people with depression that can complement medication and therapy.

These can help to improve symptoms or assist people to self-manage their condition. We explore these in more detail below.

Electroconvulsive therapy

Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) may benefit people with depression who do not respond to medication or are experiencing thoughts of suicide or self-harm.

It is a safe and controlled procedure that involves passing a small electric current through the brain to induce a brief seizure. A person will receive general anesthesia for this procedure.

The treatment triggers an immediate increase in serotonin and dopamine, and people often experience the benefits of ECT within 1 week.

Transcranial magnetic stimulation

Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) is a treatment for depression approved by the Food and Drug Administration. It uses electromagnetic energy to stimulate the parts of the brain that control mood.

It is a safe treatment with no reports of serious side effects. However, the technology is still new and can also be expensive.

Learn more about transcranial magnetic stimulation.

Self-help strategies

A person can make certain lifestyle changes that may help reduce depression symptoms.

These include:

Learn more about tips for dealing with a depressive episode.

Complementary medicine

Up to 50% of people with depression use complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) to treat depression.

These include:

It is important to note there is currently less quality evidence for the effectiveness of CAM than there is for first-line treatments such as therapy and medication.

A person should always speak with a healthcare professional before trying a new treatment for depression.

A person with depression and other mental health conditions may claim benefits from the Social Security Administration (SSA) if their condition prevents them from maintaining gainful employment.

The SSA pays benefits through two programs:

  • Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI): This is available to individuals who pay social security taxes.
  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI): This is a needs-based program that meets “strict limitations on income and asset holdings.”

The SSA lists eligibility requirements for disability benefits in its “blue book.” The listing for depressive disorder is under section 12.04.

Learn more about applying for disability benefits for depression.

A person experiencing suicidal thoughts should call 988 for immediate help from a skilled, trained crisis worker. The 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline is free, confidential, and available 24/7 across the U.S.

SAMHSA has an online directory of mental health treatment services in the U.S. People can also call SAMHSA’s national helpline on 800-662-4357 for help finding local treatment facilities, support groups, and community-based organizations.

The APA also has an online psychologist directory that people can use to find accredited therapists in their area.

A person or their loved one may be experiencing depression if they exhibit some or most of the following symptoms for at least 2 weeks:

  • feelings of hopelessness
  • feelings of helplessness, guilt, or worthlessness
  • restlessness and irritability
  • loss of interest in once pleasurable activities
  • changes in appetite
  • difficulty concentrating and making decisions
  • loss of appetite or overeating
  • persistent pains and aches or digestive issues that do not improve with treatment
  • thoughts of or attempts of suicide

Learn more about common signs and symptoms of depression.

People experiencing these symptoms should speak with a healthcare professional as soon as possible. They can offer support and signpost people to appropriate treatment.

If a person or a loved one is having thoughts of self-harm or suicide, they should seek immediate medical attention. They can call 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline or chat by texting 988.

Depression is a common mental health disorder that can significantly affect people’s quality of life. Psychotherapy, medications, or a combination of both are effective treatments for depression.

It is also essential for people to find the right kind of support and resources to help manage depression. Support groups, resources, practitioners, and treatment facilities are available through reputable organizations.

Anyone experiencing thoughts of suicide or self-harm should contact the suicide and crisis lifeline immediately by calling 988. The service can provide emotional support from trained helpline workers to people in distress.