What Are My Treatment Options for Depression?
Depression is a painful illness, but thankfully, it’s also a treatable one. If you’re struggling with depression, take heart: you don’t need to live with the suffering of this disease forever. There are many treatment options out there for you, and you can also implement lifestyle changes and spiritual practices to find some relief from your symptoms.
In this guide, we’ll take you through your treatment options for depression, from medication and classic therapy models to more innovative, drug-free treatments.
Most research studies have found that certain types of medications can be very effective for treating depression symptoms. These types of medications work by interacting with the brain and changing the amount of certain chemicals that are released.
There are many different kinds of antidepressant medications, and we’ll go over each one. The important thing to know now is that a medication that works for someone else may not work for you. It may take time to find the right medication and dosage that’s the most effective for you.
Research has shown that antidepressant drugs are an effective way to treat depression. Over half of all people with depression improve with the right medication. If you are going to start taking medication, then it’s most effective when it’s taken in conjunction with a type of talk therapy, like cognitive-behavioral therapy.
What are the most common medications that are used for depression?
There are many different types of antidepressant medication, and each one has its pros and cons. Your doctor will make the best choice based on what he knows about your lifestyle, symptoms, and medical history.
The most common types of medications that are used to treat depression are:
- Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs (Zoloft, Prozac, Paxil, Lexapro, for example)
- Serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors, or SNRIs
- Norepinephrine and dopamine reuptake inhibitors, or NDRI (Wellbutrin)
- Tricyclic antidepressants
Are antidepressant medications safe?
It’s understandable to be worried about how safe it is to take medication for your depression symptoms. In general, all of these medications are safe and well-tolerated by most people. If you choose to take them, you might experience some side effects, like:
- Dry mouth
- Sexual problems
- Nausea or other stomach issues
- Change in appetite
Each class of medication has different possible side effects, and you should ask your doctor about the possible side effects of the exact medication they’re prescribing you. Sometimes, side effects can be serious — but most side effects are mild and go away after a while.
If you’ve already tried medication and it either hasn’t worked or the side effects were too uncomfortable, don’t lose hope. There are other treatment options for you that don’t involve medication, and you can still recover from depression with the right interventions.
What about those for whom medication doesn’t help? What if you tried medications and the side effects were just too unbearable to continue?
For people who have tried and tried to improve their depression symptoms to no avail, there is an innovative new treatment called transcranial magnetic stimulation, or TMS therapy. This therapy has been shown to be very effective for depression — especially stubborn, treatment-resistant depression.
How does TMS therapy work?
TMS therapy uses electromagnetic coils to deliver pulses to your brain. In your first TMS therapy session the area of brain believed to be the area of the brain that is best treated with TMS for depression will be determined. After several sessions of treatment, when these regions of the brain are activated, your depression symptoms start to go away.
The exact science is a little more complicated than that (and, in fact, the specific science behind why TMS therapy is so effective is still unknown), but the most important thing is that it works. There are so many people with depression that just don’t get better with medication. Over half of these people with treatment-resistant depression find significant relief with TMS therapy.
Is TMS therapy safe?
It’s understandable for anyone to be skeptical, or even fearful, when they first read about TMS therapy. Getting your brain zapped with electromagnetic micro-pulses? Can that be safe?
Yes! TMS therapy is safe, and most people have no or very mild side effects. Some of the most common side effects include:
- Mild headaches
- Scalp pain
These side effects are usually temporary. There is a 0.1% risk of developing seizures after receiving TMS therapy, so make sure you tell your provider if you have or are at risk for a seizure disorder. However, the risks are much lower than that of electroconvulsive, or “shock” therapy, another alternative intervention for depression that should not be confused with TMS.
TMS therapy is a non-invasive procedure, so it doesn’t break the skin or require surgery to receive it. You don’t need to go under anesthesia to receive it, either, which means you’ll be able to drive yourself to and from your appointments.
TMS is not a miracle cure for depression, but if you’ve been struggling with depression and it seems like nothing is working, then it is a treatment worth considering. Many people have found relief from their depression with TMS therapy, and you can too.
How is TMS Therapy Used for Treating Depression?
Psychotherapy is usually one of the first-line treatments that are recommended for people with depression. There are so many different types of therapy available, and all of them look at depression in different ways. In general, though, therapists can provide you with a safe, non-judgmental space to explore your thoughts and feelings. They can also teach you the skills you need to manage your symptoms better and start living a fuller life.
Some of the most common types of therapy techniques that are used to treat depression are cognitive-behavioral therapy and psychodynamic therapy.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy, or CBT, is a well-studied and effective therapy technique for depression. The heart of the CBT model is that our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are all connected. And it’s often not our life circumstances that are causing us to feel badly, but how we’re thinking about our life circumstances.
For example, imagine that a friend hasn’t called you in a week. You might think to yourself: “Maybe they hate me. This always happens. People leave, and I end up alone again.” How would these thoughts make you feel? Probably sad and angry — and maybe even depressed.
Now, imagine that before your friend stopped calling, you’d heard that they were going on an international trip. Does that change your thoughts? Many people, in this scenario, might simply think that their friend hasn’t called because they’re busy on vacation. In this scenario, you might not feel sad at all.
Therapists who use CBT can help you to change your negative or irrational thoughts about what’s going on in your life. When you can think more clearly and positively, you’re likely to feel better.
Psychodynamic therapy is also very commonly used with people with depression. Psychodynamic theory was originally based on Sigmund Freud’s work with the unconscious mind. Psychodynamic therapists tend to explore more deeply into your psyche, feelings, beliefs, and past experiences.
Unlike CBT, which can be a brief intervention, psychodynamic therapy is intended to last for a longer time. Research shows that it’s an effective intervention for depression.
Therapists often use a combination of different theories to help clients. Your therapist will get to know you and ask you about your background, symptoms, and preferences to make a decision on how to work with you. This is usually a collaborative process; it’s important to communicate your expectations for therapy clearly.
Depression is a mental illness, but that doesn’t mean it only affects the mind. We as comprehensive mental health experts believe that all of your different parts are connected — your body, mind, and spirit. That means that to beat depression, you need to make bigger lifestyle changes that affect your whole self, not just the part of your brain with depression.
Perhaps the most important lifestyle habit you can implement to beat depression is physical activity. Getting regular exercise is a great, evidence-based way to reduce depression symptoms. Even if you aren’t depressed, physical activity is one of the hallmarks of happy people’s lives.
Another critical lifestyle habit that makes a huge difference in depression symptoms is sleep. Researchers say that we need between 7 to 9 hours of restful sleep each night, but too many of us don’t get enough. In depression, people tend to fall into two categories. They either have trouble sleeping, or they sleep too much. And the relationship between sleep and mental illness can quickly turn into a vicious cycle; having depression can keep us from getting good sleep but being sleep-deprived or sleeping too much makes our depression symptoms much worse.
Learning how to manage your stress is another important factor in living a lifestyle that minimizes your depression symptoms. Chronic stress is a nasty factor that increases your risk for developing all sorts of health disorders, including heart problems, a weak immune system, diabetes, substance use disorder, and – you guessed it – depression.
There are many healthy ways to manage your stress, including meditation, deep breathing exercises, yoga, and listening to music. You should avoid alcohol as a stress management tool because drinking only makes depression symptoms worse.
A healthy lifestyle creates a healthy mind — and if you have a healthy mind, it becomes harder for depression to grow.
If you’re a person of faith, then you may often find yourself praying to God for reassurance or comfort during the darkest moments of your depression, or God may seem far away, as if he has abandoned you. Excessive feelings of guilt or worthlessness is actually one of the hallmarks of depression and can worsen the feeling of being distant from God. The Bible recognizes that people have dark emotional experiences and says that God has great compassion for them even when they can’t feel it. A Christian’s Journey Through Depression describes one person’s experience of reliance on faith and using tested resources for practical help in times of depression.
Spiritual practices, whether it’s meditating, praying, or going to church, have been found to be an important part of comprehensive mental health wellness.
Find ways to weave more spirituality into your everyday life. Maybe you can implement a nightly meditation practice or read your Bible every morning. The sense of community that’s often found at places of worship can also bring you some social connection — another factor that improves depression symptoms.
The mind loves to overthink things during depression. People often describe it as “being in their own head.” Trying harder not to think doesn’t work! It just makes things worse. Mindfulness practices can be helpful for people from any faith. Mindfulness simply means being in the present moment and include focused breathing exercises and other practices. You can practice mindfulness while you’re sitting down for meditation, but you can also infuse it into your everyday life. The next time you take a walk outside, try listening to the sounds around you instead of listening to a podcast. Feel the air on your skin, and take each step with intention and presence. In other words, connect to yourself and to the world around you.
Genesis Behavioral Health is a mental health center based serving the San Antonio, Texas area. We offer comprehensive mental health care that combines the science of psychiatry with human compassion to heal your body, mind, and spirit. As a mental health center, we offer a wide variety of treatments for depression, including cognitive behavioral therapy, group therapy, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing therapy, TMS therapy, and more.
If you’re struggling with depression symptoms, let us help. Reach out to our office today to learn how we can help you on your mental health journey.