What Are Your Depression Treatment Options?

It's normal to feel down after the breakup of a relationship, death in the family, or loss of a job. But when the feeling persists for several weeks or more, or isn't related to any identifiable cause, you could be suffering from depression, says Jeffrey H. Axelbank, PsyD, a psychologist and management consultant based in New Jersey.

Signs of Depression

  • Marked changes in eating and/or sleeping habits
  • Lack of interest in former activities
  • Weight loss or weight gain
  • Inability to experience enjoyment and pleasure
  • Not wanting to get out of bed
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Skipping work
  • Ignoring personal hygiene
  • Feelings of guilt and self loathing
  • Blueness that won't go away
  • Thoughts of inflicting self-harm or suicide

(Note: In children depression may present differently with the primary symptom being irritability instead of sadness.)

Support Network

When you're in the grips of depression, you might be tempted to turn to family and friends for support and to talk out your problems. Having emotional shoring up can help you avoid becoming isolated and can provide an avenue to get your feelings out in the open. But for true depression, talking informally won't be sufficient. "You'll also need the expertise of a trained professional who can offer treatment based on research that has been shown to be effective," says Adam K. Herdina, PsyD, a psychologist who practices in California.

Therapy and Anti-Depressants

What you can expect from a therapist or other mental health counselor will depend on your specific situation. For people with mild depression, engaging in formal talk therapy might be enough to manage their symptoms, but for more serious cases, medication can also be warranted.

"The brain is very complex and medication can provide clarity for thinking that is clouded," Herdina says. There are several different categories of anti-depressant medications and each works differently and has different side effects. Therefore, you may have to try more than one type in order to find what works best for your needs.

Supervision Required

"Of course no one should ever take any medication unless it's prescribed by a doctor," Axelbank stresses. Some anti-depressant medications require monitoring and blood tests and can't be stopped abruptly without causing problems, so it's important to take them only under the careful watch of a trained professional.

Not a Permanent Fix

He says to keep in mind that medication only works while you're taking it, so this alone won't provide a permanent fix for depression, but it can help to stabilize your condition and can allow you to get the most out of your therapy sessions.

Along with therapy and medication, many patients find that engaging in regular exercise also helps manage depression effectively. In addition, Herdina suggests using one of the many cell phone apps available today such as Mood Kit and Sleep Cycle to help you track your symptoms, follow your sleep patterns, and monitor your medication usage. This can help you to feel in control of your situation.

Learn More

For more information about depression or to find a therapist in your area, you can visit the websites of the American Psychological Association, the American Psychiatric Association and the National Institute of Mental Health.

Adam Herdina, PsyD, and Jeffrey H. Axelbank, PsyD, reviewed this article.



Adam K. Herdina, PsyD, clinical psychology, The Arroyos Psychological Associates
Email interview, 24 October 2013

Jeffrey H. Axelbank, PsyD, psychologist and management consultant
Email interview, 24 October 2013