Treatment for depression

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

There are effective treatments for depression, but there is no single treatment that is right for everybody. It’s important to find a treatment that works for you, and this may take some trial and error.

Treatments for depression can be divided into:

Antidepressants and CBT (a specific kind of psychological therapy) are about as effective as each other for improving symptoms of moderate depression in the short term. However, the effects of CBT last longer than those of antidepressants after you stop therapy.

The decision to take an antidepressant, or undertake psychological therapy, or combine both approaches, is very individual. Talk to your doctor about what you think will work best for you.

Lifestyle changes and supportive treatments such as exercise can also be helpful, but are not usually enough to treat depression on their own.

There are many complementary medicines and alternative therapies for depression too. Some have evidence to back them up, but many don’t. Some, such as St John’s wort, can have dangerous interactions with other medicines, including antidepressants. So it is important to be open with your doctor about everything you are taking.

For severe depression that doesn’t respond to other treatments, electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) may be considered, as it can be very effective. The way ECT is given has changed a lot in the last 50 years, and a general anaesthetic is always given beforehand now.

Talking to your doctor about treatment for depression

Three questions to ask your doctor:

  1. What are my treatment options?
  2. What are their benefits and harms?
  3. How likely are these?

Asking these questions helped people with depression get more information about how to manage their condition, according to a recent Australian study.

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