Most of us will experience times when we don’t feel at our best, and this is normal. Though when you can’t shake the feeling of sadness for weeks at a time, this is depression. In this post, we will discuss the best therapies and treatments for depression.
It is all too easy to brush off depression as something that isn’t a real health problem. This is far from the truth and an issue that an estimated 2.3% of adults have to cope within the UK.
Depression isn’t something to take lightly; it has real and serious consequences. If you are suffering from depression, there is support available. Most people that undergo treatments for depression fully recover. The first step is to realise you are having problems and seek help.
A visit to your GP can be the first stage of getting help for your condition. Your treatment will be tailored to the severity of your illness.
If you are diagnosed with a milder form of depression, your GP may opt for one of the following courses of action:
Your condition may improve by itself over time. If your GP thinks this option is appropriate, they will want to see you again in about a fortnight to see if there have been improvements.
Mild depression can be improved by taking some exercise. It has been shown that exercise has a beneficial effect on milder forms of depression. Your GP may direct you to organised exercise classes.
Having depression can increase your sleep problems. Insomnia is a frequent issue for patients with depression, but bad sleeping habits can also be a contributing factor in causing depression. You could have 10 times the risk of developing depression if you have insomnia. If you can solve your sleep problems, your depression may improve.
Your doctor may point you towards mental health apps that can help you cope with negative thoughts. There are many to choose from, check the feedback to see which seem appropriate for your situation.
If you are diagnosed with a more serious case of depression, your GP may direct you towards other treatments.
Your doctor may prescribe a course of antidepressants to treat the symptoms you are suffering. There are many different antidepressants on the market and are only used when your depression impacts your daily life.
If you are prescribed antidepressants and recommended taking a talking therapy course, this is combination therapy. This can help in more severe cases of depression, supporting the patient through CBT while on the medication.
Severe cases of depression can be referred to a mental health team. The team is made up of psychiatrists, psychologists, occupational therapists, and specialist nurses to give intensive talking therapies to the patient. They will also prescribe treatments where necessary. Read the NICE Guidelines here.
Different therapeutic approaches will work more effectively for different people, you need to find the one that works best for your situation. Some treatment methods will be more effective for you at certain times during your recovery and depend on the severity of your depression.
The therapies we discuss here are an effective treatment for depression and could be safer in the long run when compared to prescription drugs. If you are aware of your treatment options, you will be better able to choose which path to recovery is best for you.
Talking therapies normally involve you opening up about private issues that have affected you. You need to feel comfortable to talk about these difficult thoughts. Therapists won’t judge what you have to tell them and are committed to your confidentiality.
There are only a few circumstances where they will reveal any information about you. This is only when someone is at serious risk of immediate danger. They will only share basic information with your GP if necessary, with your consent.
Psychotherapy sessions can be provided in different formats to suit the patient’s needs. These include:
The individual or one-on-one therapy approach has the advantage of giving the patient the full attention of the therapist. It does lack the chance for the therapist to observe the patient during interactions with others, which can limit understanding of the problems.
If the depression is triggered by family interactions, a family session can show the therapist where the problems lie. This format of therapy can be most useful for children and teenagers.
Group sessions can involve a dozen or more people. It allows participants to get support from members of the group that have experienced similar issues.
It also gives therapists the opportunity to observe group interactions, better enabling how they provide care to individuals. Group sessions can work out cheaper than one-on-one appointments.
For couples in a marriage or long-term relationship, a couples’ session may offer a better treatment for depression.
Psychotherapy encompasses a range of treatment methods, including talking therapy which helps people cope with problems in their lives. Below we have listed the most popular forms of psychotherapy that are available to those struggling with depression:
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is designed to change the way people think about the things that happen to them. Where they are prone to unhelpful thought patterns, these can be worked on to produce better ways of dealing with thinking that produces negative results.
The idea that your thoughts instruct how you act, as well as the things you feel, is fundamental to CBT. Your therapist will help you change your thinking when you feel depressed. You will decide on goals, with your therapist, for what you want to achieve during and between sessions.
Dialectical Behaviour Therapy is similar to CBT but adds mindfulness strategies. This is designed to help people better cope in the moment, with less stress and better emotions to reduce depression.
Interpersonal Psychotherapy treats your symptoms as a reaction to the current events you are going through. It is primarily used for relationship problems that lead to depression.
Psychodynamic therapy is used when it is suspected that the cause of depression is unresolved feelings. These frequently arise from childhood experiences, and it helps the patient understand how past events have affected their current feelings.
People can become depressed from social conflicts or a lack of support from others. Interpersonal therapy can help people understand how social interactions are affecting them and how to better deal with these situations.
Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy helps people focus on the moment. This stops them thinking about things that trouble them and lead to depressive thought patterns.
If you are more aware of unpleasant thoughts arising, you can deal with them before they cause you problems. This is achieved, through meditation which is often done during group sessions.
This type of therapy encourages the patient to involve themselves in activities that increase their happiness. This helps to reduce their involvement in activities that have brought them to their depressed state.
This can be achieved through setting personal goals that give the patient better control over their emotions.
Interpersonal and Social Rhythm Therapy is designed to combat depression by helping the patient work with their biological rhythms. It helps people deal with mood swings and stressful issues to reduce the interruptions to social rhythms.
For many people suffering from depression, the prescribing of antidepressants can change brain chemistry which improves their mood. Medications can include:
Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors have the effect of blocking the serotonin from returning to the nerve cell that it came from. Serotonin has many uses in the body, but lower levels are linked to depression. SSRIs work to increase the amount of this chemical in your system, making you happier.
Serotonin and Noradrenaline Reuptake Inhibitors are similar to SSRIs. They keep more serotonin in your system as well as noradrenaline. Noradrenaline abnormalities have been found in depressed patients, and the use of this type of drug is becoming more common as a result.
Tricyclic drugs are an older type of antidepressant. They increase the length of time serotonin and noradrenaline stay in the system, though they are more likely to cause side effects than newer drugs.
They have a different chemical structure to tricyclics but work in a comparable way. They are known to produce more side effects in general than tricyclics. However, they can reduce some types of side effect when compared to tricyclics, so can be better for some patients.
Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors also have an effect on serotonin and noradrenaline in the body. They reduce the effectiveness of enzymes to break down serotonin and noradrenaline, so they stay active in your body for longer.
They aren’t normally used unless other antidepressants aren’t suitable, due to the risk of negative interactions with some foods. If you are prescribed this type of antidepressant, you have to stick to a strict diet.
We have only looked at the most common antidepressants, there are 26 types licenced for use in the UK. These work in a different way to the types we have looked at and maybe more suitable for specific patient needs.
If you are not inclined to starting a course of medication or opening up to another person about your issues, there are plenty of alternative therapies for you to consider. Among these are:
There is some evidence that acupuncture has a beneficial effect on depression in some patients.  The evidence isn't conclusive, however.
Acupuncture involves sticking needles into the skin which stimulates nerves that can lead to the release of endorphins, a natural pain relief mechanism.
Through meditation, it is possible to achieve better focus, letting you avoid negative thoughts that may have triggered depression.  Meditation is used to realise you are experiencing negative thinking without having to act on those thoughts.
Even if you don't have an artistic background, this type of therapy could still be useful to you. It can be used to help you find out more about yourself and deal with difficult feelings you struggle with.
Some alternative approaches to therapy originate from Eastern philosophy, they try to treat the whole person instead of just tackling their symptoms.
Complementary treatments work alongside advice and medications prescribed by your GP. Alternative therapies are intended to replace other treatments.
If you are more aware of what is happening in the present, you should be better equipped to deal with negative thoughts. Mindfulness is a skill that allows you to become more self-aware, letting you feel what is happening in your body and mind, without judgement.
Being closer to nature has a positive effect on many people's moods. Ecotherapy is a more formal approach to spending time outdoors, which can include socialising with others and taking part in activities in nature.
Other people have been through similar situations, and peer support connects people who have shared experiences. They allow you to help and receive guidance from others who have gone through the same difficult challenges.
If GP’s prescriptions don’t prove effective, there are some other options that could be tried as a treatment for depression. These include:
Electroconvulsive Therapy can be helpful to patients that don’t benefit from antidepressants. An electrical current is passed through the brain to change the way neurotransmitters affect depression. Read more here.
Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation involves magnetic pulses being sent through the head. A coil is placed against the skull to stimulate nerve cells in the brain to better regulate mood.
If you are diagnosed with a severe condition, you are likely to be referred to a specialist team. If you have been treated for depression already, they can help you try new medications and talking therapies or revisit treatments that showed some promise.
When psychotic symptoms are being experienced, the team will prescribe antipsychotic drugs to complement your other treatments. If you are having a mental health crisis, a CRHT or Crisis Resolution and Home Treatment team can assist your recovery. This can prevent you from having to be admitted to hospital.
If there are significant risks of self-harm, hospital admission may offer the best solution. The hospital should provide patients with a safer environment so that they can be helped to recover without the situation getting worse.
The most commonly used treatment for depression is CBT. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy can work extremely well for many people with mild and moderate conditions.
Of the talk therapies available, CBT has more of a proven track record to support its use. It can work as well as antidepressants for some patients and could offer a reduced chance of relapsing into depression ahead of prescribed medicines.
If you are taking antidepressants, CBT can give you a greater chance of a successful treatment that lasts. It will equip you with the skills to help you whenever negative feelings begin to arise.