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Treatments for Depression

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Depression is a treatable condition. There are a number of medications approved for easing depression, and psychotherapy is also effective for many people. In some cases, a doctor will suggest a combination of these treatments to relieve symptoms. While a primary care physician may be able to prescribe an antidepressant, in can often be more beneficial to consult with a psychiatrist, psychologist, or other mental health professional in order to find the most effective treatment for the particular case of depression.


There are a wide variety of medications prescribed to treat depression, most falling under one of the following categories. Be aware, however, that while most antidepressants are considered to be generally safe, they do carry a warning that they may cause increased depression and an increase in suicidal behavior or thoughts, particularly in children, teenagers, and adults under the age of 25.

  1. Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs)
    SSRIs treat depression by increasing the level of serotonin in the brain. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter, or chemical messenger that carries signals between brain cells, or neurons. SSRIs prevent the reabsorption, or reuptake, of serotonin in the brain, making more serotonin available. These drugs are called selective because they appear to primarily affect serotonin and have no impact on other neurotransmitters. These medications may also be used to treat anxiety disorders and some other medical conditions.
  2. Serotonin-Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRIs)
    Like SSRI?s, SNRIs treat depression by affecting chemical neurotransmitters involved in communication between neurons in the brain. They work by causing changes in the chemistry of the brain and affect communication in the brain cell circuitry that regulates mood in order to ease depression. SNRIs prevent the reuptake of the neurotransmitters serotonin and norepinephrine.
  3. Tricyclic and Tetracyclic Antidepressants
    Cyclic antidepressants also block the absorption of the neurotransmitters serotonin and norepinephrine, increasing the levels of these neurotransmitters in the brain. However, cyclic antidepressants also affect other chemical messengers, which may lead to a number of side effects.
  4. Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs)
    MAOIs were the first type of antidepressants developed. They may be prescribed when other drugs haven’t worked, because they also impact other neurotransmitters in both the brain and digestive system, which may cause side effects requiring a strict diet due to dangerous (even deadly) interactions with certain foods, medications, and herbal supplements. Like most antidepressants, MAOIs work by MAOIs relieve depression by impacting the neurotransmitters that communicate between neurons. Monoamine oxidase, an enzyme that helps remove the neurotransmitters norepinephrine, serotonin, and dopamine from the brain is inhibited by MAOIs to allow more of these chemicals to become available to brain cells and circuits affected by depression. MAOIs may also be used to treat other conditions including Parkinson’s disease.
  5. Atypical antidepressants
    Atypical antidepressants do not fit into other classes of antidepressants, although they also work to treat depression by affecting neurotransmitters involved in communication between brain cells. They cause changes to the chemistry of the brain and impact communication in brain cells that is known to regulate mood and also change the level of one or more neurotransmitters, usually dopamine, serotonin, and/or norepinephrine.


Psychotherapy, also known as talk therapy, involves treating depression by talking about your condition and associated issues with a mental health professional. There are different types of psychotherapy that can be effective for depression, including cognitive behavioral therapy, psychodynamic therapy, and interpersonal therapy. Your mental health professional may also recommend other types of therapies depending on your specific case.

Hospital/Residential Treatment

In severe cases of depression or when suicidal thoughts are involved, a hospital stay may be required or an outpatient program recommended. Psychiatric treatment at a hospital or residential program can keep an individual calm and protected until their mood improves enough to make it safe for them to leave.

Alternate Treatments

Partial hospitalization or day treatment programs may also be recommended, and in extreme cases that haven?t responded to more conventional therapy, electroconvulsive therapy or transcranial magnetic stimulation may be considered. Today, both of these methods are generally safe, with the benefits outweighing any risks.

The important thing to remember if you or a loved one is suffering from depression is that there are many treatment options available. No one should live with depression. And if you would like assistance with daily tasks or in caring for a loved one, be sure to contact Specialty Care Services for personalized support!

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