Depression overview

Depression is a common problem, so if you are depressed you are not alone. About 1 in 25 Australians meet the criteria for depression each year.

Find out more about what depression is, how it is diagnosed, the treatment options and the lifestyle changes you can make to help yourself.

If you feel life is not worth living, you need to get help immediately by talking to your doctor, calling a friend or family member, or calling a helpline.

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There are effective treatments for depression, but no single treatment is right for everyone.
Image: Ross-Edward Cairney/

Treatment options

There are effective treatments for depression, but there is no single treatment that is right for everybody.

Treatments for depression can be divided into:

The decision to take an antidepressant or have psychological therapy, or combine both, is very individual, but the severity of depression should guide the choice. Talk to your doctor about what you think will work best for you.

Psychological therapies, particularly cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), are more effective than an antidepressant for mild depression.

For moderate depression, antidepressants and CBT are about as effective as each other in the short term. However, the effects of CBT may keep depression away for longer than those of an antidepressant after you stop treatment.

If you have severe depression, an antidepressant is recommended from the start of treatment. Psychological therapies might be used later.

For severe depression that hasn’t responded to other treatments, electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) may be considered. It can be very effective and even life-saving for some people.

Which antidepressant?

There is no ‘best’ antidepressant for everyone, because two individuals can respond quite differently to the same antidepressant. Talking to your doctor about which side effects are the most important for you to avoid can help you make the best choice. You can find information about individual medicines in Antidepressants A–Z.

Complementary medicines

There are also many complementary medicines and alternative therapies for depression. Some have evidence to back them up, but most don’t. Whatever you decide to take, let you doctor or pharmacist know about it — some complementary medicines interact with prescription medicines. For example, St John’s wort has dangerous interactions with antidepressants and many other medicines.

See also