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Depression Health Center

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Depression Treatment: Your Options

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Your treatment plan for depression will depend on the type you have and how severe it is. Some people get psychotherapy. Others also take antidepressants or get other treatments. Exercise can also be part of the plan.

If those don't give you enough relief, there are more options. For instance, your doctor may suggest brain stimulation techniques such as electroconvulsive therapy (also called ECT or electroshock therapy), transcranial magnetic stimulation, or vagus nerve stimulation.

Recommended Related to Depression

Depression and Risky Behavior

Depression poses many dangers, burdening people with hopelessness and raising their risk of suicide. But in attempts to quell the pain, some turn to alcohol, drugs, and other harmful behaviors that endanger them even further, psychologists say. “There is a strong relationship between depression and high-risk behaviors,” says Pamela Cantor, PhD, a psychologist and lecturer at Harvard Medical School. “Excessive drinking, drug abuse, unsafe sex, and cutting are all self-injurious behaviors that...

Read the Depression and Risky Behavior article > >

If you have bipolardepression, your doctor may prescribe different types of medicines, such as mood-stabilizing drugs or certain antipsychotic medicines, instead of antidepressants.

Everyone is different. It may take some trial and error to find the treatment plan that works best for you. It also takes time for an antidepressant to have its full effect. You may meet with several doctors or therapists before you find the one you want to work with.

Be patient and tell your doctor how you’re doing. Your openness will help him find solutions, so you feel better ASAP.

What Are Depression Drugs?

These medicines, called “antidepressants,” lift your mood and ease the sadness and hopelessness you feel. You’ll work with your doctor to find the one that works best for you with the fewest side effects.

For in-depth information, see WebMD's Depression Medicines.

How Do Antidepressants Work?

It’s all about the brain circuitry that’s involved in managing your mood.

Three key chemicals are norepinephrine, serotonin, and dopamine. Research shows that in depression, brain circuits that use these chemicals don't work properly. Antidepressants can help these brain circuits work better by tweaking the chemicals that run through them. That can help improve mood, although the exact way they work is still not fully understood.

What Are the Types of Antidepressants?

The major types are:

SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) are the most commonly prescribed type of antidepressant. They can make brain circuits that use serotonin work better. Examples include:

SNRIs (serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors) affect brain circuits that use both serotonin and norepinephrine. These SNRIs treat depression:

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