Depression Treatment Options

By The Fix staff 01/21/15

Your Guide to Depression Treatment.

Depression Treatment

Of all the potential mental health disorders, you will be more likely to suffer from the unbearable pain and sadness of depression at some point in your life. Everyone will experience a traumatic event, annoyance, or crisis that will make you think twice about how you feel, but up to one-tenth of people will be diagnosed with a depressive disorder according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Furthermore, half of those suffering from depression will meet criteria in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders Fifth Edition (DSM V) for the most intense form of depression, Major Depression.

Dual Diagnosis: Depression and Substance Abuse

When someone suffers from Depression and also has an alcohol or drug abuse disorder, it constitutes a dual diagnosis, which is similar to a comorbid disorder. Substance abuse intensifies the effects of a depressive disorder, or it may actually cause the first episode of depression. In order to treat depression, the substance abuse disorder must able to be treated. If both disorders are not treated, the likelihood of a recurring depressive episode or return to substance abuse disorder becomes prominent. For example, depression can lead someone to want to feel better through any means necessary, which includes relapse. On the other hand, a person may overcome depression, but depression resurfaces if substance abuse continues. The National Alliance on Mental Illness reports that approximately half of those suffering from a severe mental illness, such as depression, also have an additional drug or alcohol abuse disorder. Furthermore, 53% of those who have a substance abuse disorder have an additional severe mental illness.

Comorbid Disorders

Comorbid disorders occur when a person suffers from multiple mental illnesses at the same time, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. For example, someone who suffers from major depression may also have an anxiety disorder. When a disorder involving drug or alcohol abuse disorder occurs at the same time as another mental health disorder, the disorder transforms into a dual diagnosis. All dual diagnoses are comorbid disorders; however, not all comorbid disorders equal a dual diagnosis.

Depression Treatment Centers

When you or a loved one begins seeking out options for getting help for depression, you have the opportunity to choose between inpatient and outpatient depression treatment centers. Inpatient treatment centers allow you to treat depression when the symptoms of the disorder have progressed to a dangerous point, such as when suicidal thoughts or actions become evident. However, many people opt to receive treatment on an outpatient basis due to a variety of reasons, which include financial cost, family needs, and work responsibilities. While outpatient depression treatment centers will help you overcome depression, you must take an active role in making sure that you keep up with your treatment plan.

For those who choose to go through inpatient treatment, they will need to continue receiving treatment on an outpatient basis following discharge. Inpatient treatment settings are designed to give someone suffering from a severe mental health disorder a safe environment to switch medications, deal with dangerous behaviors, or even detox from an additional drug or alcohol abuse disorder. You may require only one stay in inpatient treatment, but depression often reappears throughout the course of your life, which may warrant additional inpatient treatment visits. However, you should not take a repeating visit to an inpatient depression treatment center as failure on your part. You are doing what you have to in order to live.

Depression Medication Treatment

Medication treatment remains the most effective means of treating the biological causes of depression. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, licensed medical practitioners use three different classes of medications to treat depression: MAOIs, Tricyclics, and SSRIs.  However, you or a loved one may need additional medications to treat depression that occurs with another mental health disorder, such as depression occurring as a phase of Bipolar disorder. You may begin experiencing improvements in your depression within 1 week of medication treatment, but antidepressants require 4 to 6 weeks to have a full effect.


Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors, or MAOIs, represent the oldest class of antidepressants according to the National Institute of Mental Health. These medications effectively treat atypical cases of depression in which the person suffering from depression does not experience typical symptoms. However, MAOIs have the potential to cause complications for those who have heart conditions, and MAOIs cannot be taken in combination with foods or beverages containing tyramine, which is found in cheese and dark wines. In all cases, MAOIs should not be taken at the same time as SSRIs or SNRIs.


Tricyclic medications are the second oldest class of antidepressants and are among the most power antidepressant medications available. However, Tricyclics have the potential to be fatal when taken in excessive amounts, which poses a high-risk to those suffering from depression. For example, someone with major depression will be prone to suicidal thoughts or actions, and Tricyclics could provide the means to commit suicide. In order to continue treating depression with safer medications, researchers developed the newest class of antidepressant medications, SSRIs and SNRIs.


Over the past 2 decades, SSRIs--Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors--have grown in use to become the most commonly used medication for the treatment of depression. This trend exists due to the minimal potential side effects of SSRIs compared to older, more-powerful antidepressant medications. SSRIs affect the amount of serotonin, a neurotransmitter, within the brain. When your brain cells send a message from one neuron to another neuron, the originating cell releases neurotransmitters into the gap between the cells. The neurotransmitters bind to the receiving cell, which allows for the continuation of the message. Once a successful transmission has been achieved, the originating cell reabsorbs the released neurotransmitters. For someone suffering from depression, the originating cell begins reabsorbing the neurotransmitters before a successful communication has been achieved, which results in the constant low-mood and sadness of depression.

SSRIs reduce the speed that the originating cell reabsorbs the released serotonin. The increased presence of serotonin within the gap between cells allows more serotonin to bind to the receiving cell and communicate the message. This same process has been applied in the use of SNRIs, or Serotonin and Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors. SNRIs affect the reabsorption of both serotonin and dopamine within the brain.

Mood Stabilizers

When you or a loved one suffers from Bipolar disorder, you will experience depressive episodes as part of your disorder. In this instance, your depression may be treated through the use of mood stabilizers, which include Lithium and anticonvulsants. These medications work to balance manic and depressive episodes into a single stable mood, and most people with Bipolar disorder must take mood stabilizers for long periods of time, if not indefinitely, according to the National Institute on Mental Health.

Psychotherapy for Depression Treatment

Although psychotherapy may be sufficient for treating mild to moderate depression without medication, an effective treatment plan for severe depression includes psychotherapy as well as medication treatment. Psychotherapy, or "talk therapy," encompasses more than a discussion about why you feel a certain way, which is commonly depicted in media with this phrase: "How do you feel about that?"  However, two unique types of psychotherapy, Cognitive Behavioral therapy and Interpersonal therapy are the best forms of psychotherapy for depression.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Depression

Cognitive Behavioral therapy uses an ongoing conversation between you and your therapist to identify and change negative thought processes contributing to your depression. Your therapist will assign you "homework" to help you interpret the aspects of your daily life as positive interactions. You will learn how to identify thoughts that begin to develop in a negative manner and transform them into something positive. Furthermore, Cognitive Behavioral therapy routinely lasts approximately 3-months or less, which is minimal when compared to the possible years of treatment through psychoanalysis.

Interpersonal Therapy for Depression

In a manner similar to Cognitive Behavioral therapy, interpersonal therapy addresses negative thought processes that occur as a result of an unhealthy relationship. You will gain insight into how to get through these types of relationships without causing a dramatic, negative effect on your depression. For example, you will be able to identify how the causes of an unhealthy relationship do not necessarily reflect your own self-worth.

Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM Therapy) in Depression Treatment

In recent years, the use of Complementary and Alternative Medicine to treat mental health conditions has become popular. According to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), Complementary medicine uses non-traditional approaches to treatment in conjunction with modern medicine to treat your disorder. In contrast, Alternative medicine uses non-traditional approaches to treatment exclusively. CAM therapy includes both natural products--such as dietary supplements, minerals, or herbs--and mind and body practices.

Natural Products to Help With Depression

Most natural products have not been evaluated by the FDA for treating depression. Natural products come in many forms of oral pills, creams, or lotions. However, you may have heard of St. John's Wort as a treatment option for depression in the past. The National Institute on Mental Health reveals that some studies show St. John's Wort does not have any impact on depression. However, Europe continues to use the herb widely for the treatment of depression. Furthermore, the FDA issued warnings about how the herb may interact with many medications. Do not begin taking St. John's Wort without permission from your psychiatrist and medical physician.

Mind and Body Practices to Help with Depression

This type of treatment uses non-traditional approaches to treat your depression. For example, you may use acupuncture to realign the natural energies within your body. Some common mind and body practices include yoga, relaxation techniques, breathing exercises, Tai Chi, massage therapy, and spinal manipulation. Spinal manipulation is most commonly used by a chiropractor to change the way that your spine affects your mind and body.

Depression is a tragic mental health disorder that many people never get help for. When you or a loved one need help to overcome depression, especially when you also have an additional substance abuse disorder, you have many different treatment options. You may choose to get help in an inpatient or outpatient basis. You may need medication or psychotherapy treatment depending upon the severity of your depression. If traditional approaches to treatment do not seem to help, you may try CAM therapy to help you overcome depression. Getting help is not weakness; turning your back on yourself or someone you love with a mental health disorder is weakness.

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