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Depression (cont.)

Treatment Overview

Depression can be treated in various ways. Counseling, psychotherapy, and antidepressant medicines may all be used. Lifestyle changes, such as getting more exercise, also may help.

Your doctor or mental health professional will help you find the best treatment. For severe depression, a very small number of people may need to stay in a hospital for a short time, especially if they are thinking about suicide.

Work with your health care team to find the best treatment for you. To get the most benefit, be sure you find a therapist who has experience treating people who have depression and who is trained in proven therapies, and use your medicines as your doctor directs.

  • If your depression is mild, you may need only therapy.
  • If you have moderate to severe symptoms, your doctor probably will suggest medicine and/or therapy.
  • If you are using medicine, your doctor may have you try different medicines or a combination of medicines.
  • You may need to go to the hospital if you show warning signs of suicide, such as having thoughts about harming yourself or another person, not being able to tell the difference between what is real and what is not (psychosis), or using a lot of alcohol or drugs.

If you don't get treated, depression may last from months to a year or longer. A small number of people feel depressed for most of their lives and always need treatment.

Lifestyle decisions

You can help yourself by getting support from family and friends, eating a balanced diet, avoiding alcohol, staying active, and getting enough sleep.

If you need help deciding whether to talk to your doctor about depression, see some common reasons people don't get help and how to overcome them.

Other treatment

Other treatments for depression include electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) and alternative or complementary treatment. ECT involves an electric stimulation to the brain. Alternative treatments include the herb St. John's wort and omega-3 fatty acids. For more information on these treatments, see the Other Treatment section of this topic.

Photo of a man

One Man's Story:

"...[T]his was the first time I was willing to do anything to recover. It's changed my whole life."—Stan

Read more about Stan's struggle with depression.

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