What Are the Top 5 Treatment Options for Depression?
In 2016, more than 16 million adults in the United States experienced at least one episode of depression. More than 10 million of those adults reported severe impairment during a period of depression. Nearly 40 percent of those adults received no treatment for their depression, which may increase the length, severity, or repetitive nature of a major depressive episode.
The good news is that there are five effective treatment options for those ready to take action to overcome depression.
Signs and Symptoms of Depression
When the number of people who experience symptoms of depression without telling anyone is considered, the prevalence of depression in the United States is likely more startling than current statistics reveal. The most common symptoms are persistent sadness and a loss of interest in activities that the person normally finds enjoyable. This should continue for at least two weeks before an episode of clinical depression is diagnosed.
Depression may also make a person feel hopeless, lost, angry, or irritable. Sufferers may lose their appetite or try to comfort themselves by binge eating. It’s also common for a depressed person to experience backaches, headaches, and other physical discomforts. The physical symptoms are more likely to set in when a person lowers their activity level due to extended depression.
A depressed person may withdraw from social contact or have little patience for others when they are social. They may also struggle to concentrate or speak coherently during a severe episode of depression. All these symptoms may lead to feelings of shame and embarrassment, and some people will have suicidal thoughts as a result of their depression.
Top Depression Treatments
Seeking treatment quickly is the best way to minimize the risk of a depressed person attempting suicide or suffering long-term impairment that sabotages daily life. Some of the best treatment options for depression are easy to implement without consulting a doctor, but anyone suffering from extended depression is urged to seek medical assistance.
Prescription medication is typically the first line of treatment because it offers fast relief from most depression symptoms. There are a variety of antidepressants available, and each person must find the one that works best for their symptoms while causing the fewest and least severe side effects. Someone who is depressed will need to see their doctor and explain their symptoms for an official diagnosis before receiving an antidepressant prescription.
Most doctors start with selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, which are commonly referred to as SSRIs. These medications are considered safe for most people. Long-term depression may require a patient to try multiple medications before the most effective option is discovered.
It can take two weeks or longer for someone to feel the full effect of an antidepressant. Most medications require careful weaning to avoid withdrawal symptoms, so patients are discouraged from discontinuing medication without medical guidance.
Psychotherapy or Counseling
Talk therapy is often combined with prescription medication or other depression treatment options. A trained counselor or therapist meets with the depressed patient at least once a week to discuss their symptoms and life issues that may cause or worsen depression. These professionals often teach practical lifestyle strategies to overcome depression, but simply taking time to talk about how a person feels is often enough to ease depression.
There are also some group therapy sessions for depression. A counselor, therapist, or another qualified leader will oversee each session, and each participant will have the opportunity to share how they’re feeling, what they’re doing to overcome depression, and how depression has impacted their lives. Simply knowing that others are going through depression as well can ease much of the guilt and embarrassment that often comes along with the condition.
Research has shown that high-intensity exercise triggers the release of endorphins that boost happiness and feelings of contentment. Low-intensity exercise is just as beneficial when practiced consistently for a long period of time. The routine exercise triggers the growth of new nerve cells that create new pathways in the brain, turning on critical areas of the brain known to make humans feel good.
Exercise is often thought of as something for weight loss, but modern research is proving that everyone needs to move as much as possible. The more active the person, the less likely they are to feel depressed or suffer from other mood disorders.
Those living sedentary lifestyles should start out slowly. This may mean taking a daily walk and extending the length or intensity of the walk each week or month. Water aerobics, group exercise classes, and home workout DVDs are other options. Exercising outdoors increases exposure to sunlight, which can also help with depression.
Good Food and Sleep
Many people find that they can pull out of a depressive episode faster or prevent repeat episodes by eating a nutrient-dense diet and sticking to a routine sleep schedule. Getting at least seven hours of sound sleep in a quiet, comfortable environment can prevent sleep deprivation, which may easily trigger depression even in someone who is otherwise emotionally sound.
Self-care is often neglected when someone is depressed, so simply taking the time to shower and get dressed in nice clothing can relieve feelings of hopelessness, irritability, and shame. It may take some effort for someone with severe depression to get out of bed and care for themselves each day but sticking to a routine sleep and wake routine can help.
Combining medication with exercise, healthy foods, and a consistent sleep schedule is often the best prescription for someone with chronic or severe depression. The medication makes it easier for the depressed person to care for themselves and stay productive in daily life, allowing the depression to pass as quickly as possible.
Hospitalization or Residential Treatment
Those suffering prolonged or extreme clinical depression may need a residential stay at a psychiatric treatment facility or hospital. The type of depression treatment offered varies by facility, but residents will at least receive medication and psychotherapy until they’re ready to return to daily life safely. Hospitalization is often considered the last resort when someone becomes a threat to themselves or others due to their depressed mental state.
When someone suspects that a loved one is depressed, the best thing that they can do is ask questions about how the person feels and if they need help. The faster the person begins depression treatment, the faster they can return to a happy life with a positive mindset.