One of the hallmark symptoms of depression is the feeling of hopelessness. When you’re living with depression, this symptom alone can make the prospect of achieving recovery seem out of reach. But there is hope for recovery using effective methods for depression treatment, and you can start to feel better if you take the steps towards getting professional help.
Depression treatment has decades of academic and clinical research supporting its effectiveness, and innovative treatment methods can reach more people than ever before, even if you’ve tried other treatments without success.
Traditional Depression Treatment
Traditional depression treatments have helped millions of people reduce their symptoms, and in some cases, they can produce total remission from a depressive disorder. These treatments have decades of evidence supporting their effectiveness and have continued to progress as time has gone on.
Traditional treatments come in two main forms: psychotherapy approaches, which involve talking with a counsellor or therapist, and pharmaceutical approaches, which have you meet with a psychiatrist who can prescribe specific antidepressant medications which may help reduce your symptoms.
Psychotherapeutic Depression Treatment
Psychotherapy has perhaps the longest track record of helping people with depression, dating all the way back to Sigmund Freud and the invention of talk therapy. However, the science of therapy has evolved significantly since then, with interventions being effective in shorter amounts of time and with more targeted approaches for specific conditions.
While there are dozens of different styles of talk therapy, some of the most effective for depression treatment include:
Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy (CBT)
CBT is one of the most common talk therapy approaches offered in mental health treatment today. It is remarkably effective at helping people living with a depressive disorder, can typically provide results in a short period of time, and offers tools that can be effective at helping you overcome all types of personal challenges.
CBT focuses on a simple principle: that your thoughts, emotions, and actions are all interconnected. By changing and challenging your thoughts, your mood can improve, and you can take actions that better fit with your personal goals.
CBT identifies several thought patterns that can lead to moods and behaviours common in people with a depressive disorder. These are labelled cognitive distortions and include:
- Catastrophizing: Always expecting the worst-case scenario
- Personalisation: Always assuming that you are at fault
- Mind Reading: Acting as though you know what other people’s true thoughts are
- Black-and White Thinking: Seeing only one extreme or another, and never a middle ground
- Discounting the Positive: Dismissing the positive aspects of a situation
- Shoulds and Musts: Having a fixed view of how you or others should or must behave
After identifying the cognitive distortions you may be experiencing, a CBT therapist helps you to reframe these thoughts, challenge them, and take a new perspective on life in general.
Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT)
DBT shares many of the foundational principles of CBT but incorporates new elements that can be tremendously beneficial for some people. Specifically, DBT emphasises the fact that certain thoughts or feelings cannot simply be thought away. However, you can learn to accept them mindfully, without feeling the need to act on them or believe them as truth.
It also places a heavier emphasis on specific skills training and applying what you’ve learned in treatment to your everyday life. While you will still meet with a therapist individually, DBT revolves primarily around support groups and training sessions in four main modules:
- Distress tolerance
- Emotion regulation
- Interpersonal effectiveness
Although DBT is a newer form of therapy, it has quickly proven itself to be an effective depression treatment. Additionally, it can help people with a variety of other mental health challenges, such as anxiety, borderline personality disorder, substance use disorders, and more.
Interpersonal Therapy (IPT)
IPT focuses on helping people overcome a depressive disorder by focusing on how people relate to others. It aims to resolve conflicts in relationships, at work, or through significant life changes, such as the birth of a child or the loss of a loved one.
The major emphasis of IPT is on relationships and communication in the present moment instead of focusing on childhood or past experiences. For many people, this is the source of their current mental health challenges, and IPT can be an effective way of helping resolve these issues and start people on the path to recovery.
Pharmaceutical Depression Treatment
The other traditional path to helping people overcome a depressive disorder is pharmaceutical intervention. Several antidepressant medications can help people reduce the symptoms of depression and regain control over their lives. This includes medications such as:
- Wellbutrin (bupropion)
- Prozac (fluoxetine)
- Paxil (paroxetine)
- Celexa (citalopram)
- Zoloft (sertraline)
- Effexor (venlafaxine)
- Cymbalta (duloxetine)
These medications work by targeting neurotransmitters within the brain that are associated with depressive disorders. The neurotransmitters dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine are all implicated in depression, and these medications can restore them to normal levels, often producing a significant improvement in symptoms.
Starting these medications involves working with a board-certified psychiatrist, who can help you determine which medication is best for you, monitor your progress, and change your dose or medication if you aren’t seeing results.
Combined Depression Treatment
While both medication and therapy can help with depression, most people will receive an even greater result if they receive both treatments simultaneously. In one study, researchers found that either treatment alone produces a 50% reduction in depression symptoms on average, whereas combined treatment increases the reduction of symptoms to 66%.
New Forms of Depression Treatment
While traditional treatments for depression have been extremely helpful, new innovations in technology and treatment methods have produced exciting new avenues for people searching for recovery.
These treatments are often highly effective for people who have been unsuccessful with traditional treatment methods, but they can also be used as a first-line approach to treating depression.
Deep Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (Deep TMS)
Deep TMS is a highly sophisticated technology and treatment that integrates the findings of neuroscience into clinical applications. For depression treatment specifically, scientists have discovered several areas of the brain that are underactive when compared to neurotypical controls. Through the use of targeted electromagnetic impulses, these brain regions can be stimulated to produce significant relief.
Deep TMS uses a specialised electromagnetic helmet to deliver stimulation to these brain regions. A small electric impulse travels directly to the underactive regions in the brain, kickstarting the electrical networks that are partly responsible for depression.
When you start Deep TMS, your clinical team will map your brain, walk you through the treatment procedure, and fully explain how this treatment can help you achieve recovery.
The FDA has approved Deep TMS as a safe and effective treatment, and a number of scientific studies have shown that it can be incredibly promising for people who have tried other interventions without success. Sessions last between 60 and 90 minutes, and most people will begin to see a reduction in symptoms after just a few sessions.
Ketamine-assisted therapy is a novel approach to helping people overcome deep-seated depression. Ketamine is a medicine that has been used for half a century as an anaesthetic. Recently, scientists discovered that sub-anesthetic doses of ketamine could accelerate the process of traditional talk therapy.
Ketamine belongs to a class of drugs known as dissociatives. Dissociative drugs create a sense of detachment or disconnection from the environment and the self, which can help people with severe depression look at their problems objectively, without fear, and without intense emotionality that often stalls the therapy process.
Ketamine-assisted therapy harnesses this effect by allowing people living with depression to engage in deep and meaningful therapy straight away. During your ketamine experience, a therapist will sit with you throughout the entire process, talking with you about your goals, challenges, and what you hope to accomplish with the session.
Essentially, a ketamine-assisted therapy session accelerates the often lengthy process of psychotherapy. Importantly, ketamine alone can create antidepressant effects due to its biochemical effects on the brain. Combining these powerful benefits with talk therapy means that just one ketamine-assisted therapy session can produce results that last a lifetime.
Finally, lifestyle psychiatry is an approach to treating depression through practical lifestyle changes. This includes interventions such as:
- Sleep hygiene
- Stress management
These simple changes, when delivered in a structured manner by a mental health professional, can lead to dramatic improvements. Furthermore, lifestyle psychiatry is a natural complement to other treatment methods, allowing people to reap even greater benefits from their treatment experience.
When you’re living with depression, it can be hard to maintain a positive outlook. But there is hope, and several effective depression treatment methods can help you get back on your feet and regain control over your life.
- Khan, Arif et al. “A systematic review of comparative efficacy of treatments and controls for depression.” PloS one vol. 7,7 (2012): e41778. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0041778