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You are here: Home Depression Treatment Options

Treatment Options


Treatment for depression usually involves a combination of drug and psychological therapies. Which treatment or treatments are most suitable for the individual will be decided after an evaluation by the doctor. Depression can be very successfully treated; nearly 80% of patients make a significant or full recovery with the right treatment.

Drug Treatments

Anti-depressant drugs act by increasing the activity of those brain chemicals, which affect the way we feel. Anti-depressants are thought to help 2 out of 3 of people with depression.

Tricyclic antidepressants, such as dothiepin, imipramine and amitriptyline are often prescribed for moderate to severe depression. These usually take up to two weeks to start working and may have side effects.

Newer antidepressant drugs (SSRIs and SNRIs) target specific chemical 'messengers' in the brain. The most well known SSRI is fluoxetine (Prozac) but there are several other brands.

SSRIs such as Paroxatine (Seroxat) should not be prescribed for children and teenagers under 18 years because new data has shown an increase in self-harm and potentially suicidal behaviour when they are used for the treatment of depressive illness in this age group. Fluoxetine is the only SSRI that may be prescribed for under-18s, but only when specialist advice has been given.

These drugs work by increasing the level of the chemical serotonin in the brain, which helps to alleviate the symptoms of depression.

Lithium carbonate is sometimes prescribed to people with severe depression. High levels of lithium in the blood are dangerous so anyone taking lithium must have regular blood tests.

If you are prescribed drugs for depression you will probably be advised to take them for at least six months - or longer if you have a previous history of depression. You may experience withdrawal effects if you stop taking anti-depressant drugs, particularly if you stop suddenly. These effects can include headache, nausea, dizziness and even hallucinations. Always consult your doctor before stopping taking anti-depressants. Do not stop taking medication suddenly, as the withdrawal effects may be severe.

Talking treatments

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is a type of 'talking' treatment. It is based on the fact that the way we feel is partly dependent on the way we think about events. It also stresses the importance of behaving in ways which challenge negative thoughts - for example being active to challenge feelings of hopelessness.

Interpersonal therapy (IPT) focuses on people's relationships and on problems such as difficulties in communication, or coping with bereavement. There is some evidence that IPT can be as effective as medication or CBT but more research is needed.

Counselling is a form of therapy in which counsellors help people think about the problems they are experiencing in their lives and find new ways of coping with difficulties. They give support and help people find their own solutions, rather than offering advice or treatment.

Electro convulsive therapy (ECT)

ECT is a controversial treatment which is intended only to be used for people with severe depression who have not responded well to medication or other treatments. The person receiving ECT is given an anaesthetic and drugs to relax their muscles. They then receive an electrical 'shock' to the brain, through electrodes placed on the head. Most people are given a series of ECT sessions. Some people say that ECT is very helpful in relieving their depression, although others have reported unpleasant experiences, including memory problems.





You are here: Home Depression Treatment Options