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Fact Sheet

Depression: management and treatment options

There are many different management and treatment options for depression. Try to remember that overcoming depression will take time, and you’ll need to stay strong through some of the tougher days. Still, overcoming depression is possible!

Check out the Depression: causes, symptoms and types fact sheet for more information about depression.

Management and treatment options

Types of depression that are linked to biological factors (melancholic depression and psychotic melancholia) are more likely to need medical treatments like antidepressants, and are less likely to be resolved with counseling alone. Non-melancholic depression may be treated equally effectively with medical treatments or with psychological treatment.

Psychological treatment

Psychological treatment provides either an alternative to medication or works alongside medication, and is usually provided by a mental health professional, like a psychiatrist, psychologist or counselor.

Psychiatrists are physicians who are also trained as mental health professionals. Psychiatrists have special training in mental illnesses, including depression, schizophrenia and suicidal behavior. Psychiatrists are the only mental health professional who can prescribe medications.

Clinical psychologists, counseling psychologists, and professional counselors are also trained to be able to help people with depression.

In some cases, psychiatrists, psychologists and counselors work together to help someone who is depressed. The psychiatrist manages the medical part of treatment, with the other mental health professional (psychologist or counselor) providing the psychological treatment.

There are a number of psychological treatments or therapies used for depression, including cognitive therapy and cognitive behavior therapy. Check out the Get Help section for more info on getting the best help. As always, talk to your doctor or therapist about the best approach for you.

Medical treatment

Medication. Medication may be helpful in managing depression. There are several different types of antidepressant medication, which are prescribed by doctors or psychiatrists. Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs), Tricyclics (TCAs) and Irreversible Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors (MAOIs) are three common classes of antidepressants. They each work in different ways and have different applications.  Like most medications there can be side effects. It’s best to ask about what options you have, how the medication will affect you, and how to take the medication safely.

Hospitalization. Hospitalization may be necessary if your depression is particularly severe or if you are suicidal. If you begin taking medication, you might also spend a short amount of time in the hospital so your doctors can make sure that it’s working effectively and gauge your side effects.  Check out the Psychiatric hospitals or wards fact sheet for more info.

ECT. ECT is short for Electro Convulsive Therapy, sometimes called “shock therapy.” While under anesthetic, you receive a brief, mild electric shock, which lasts only a fraction of a second and is delivered to the brain through electrodes placed on the head.  ECT has been shown to be effective in treating severe depression. Like any treatment it’s important to discuss the benefits, side-effects, and other options for ECT treatment. ECT is generally only used when no other treatment has helped to alleviate the depressive symptoms.


Along with seeking treatment to manage depression, there are a number of things you can do for yourself that may help when you are feeling depressed. Some of these include:

Eating well and being active. Even though you might not feel like it, exercising and eating well can help when you are feeling down. Biological factors, as well as social factors, influence how you will feel and think about things and yourself. Exercise helps stimulate hormones like endorphins, which help you feel better about yourself and your life. If you haven’t done a lot of exercise before, it might be a good idea to start doing something small a couple of days each week — for example, a 15-minute walk or two or three laps in a pool.

Get outside. Evidence shows that when you have some sort of contact with nature — like pets, plants, gardens or parks — your mood improves and you feel less stressed. Even just going for a walk in the park may help.

Write down your feelings. Writing down your feelings or keeping a journal can be a great way to understand your emotions. It can also help you think about alternative solutions to problems.

Take time out to relax. It’s a good idea to try and take a bit of each day to do something you enjoy. When you are feeling down, it may be hard to be social or motivate yourself to be active. It might help to make a list of all the things you enjoy doing and then plan to do something from this list each day.

Talk to someone. Although it can seem hard, sharing how you feel and hanging out with someone you trust can help you get through the hard times, see alternative ways of solving or thinking about a problem, and help to make you a happier person. If you’re having difficulty talking about what you’re going through, you might start with sentences such as, ”Right now, I’m feeling…”; ”I think it started when…”; ”I’ve been feeling this for…”; ”My sleep has been…”; or ”Lately school/work has been…”

Support groups. Along with family and friends, support groups can be a place to share experiences and inspiration with others going through similar times. Talk to your doctor for details on support groups in your area. Also, if you are a college student inquire at your campus counseling center to see what kind of support groups the center might be sponsoring.

Call a crisis line. If you’re having difficulty talking to people you know, call a hot line. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255) and youth helpline Your Life Your Voice (1-800-448-3000) are both free, 24-hour help lines staffed by trained volunteers.

Set small goals. Sometimes people set goals that are almost unachievable and then feel even worse when they can’t reach them. Try to set goals that are attainable for you, even if it’s on a day-by-day, or hour-by-hour basis. And remember to reward yourself, too.

Reduce stress. It might be a good idea to try and reduce the level of stress you’re feeling. You might want to check out the Stress fact sheet for some ideas on how to manage stress.

Go easy on drugs and alcohol. Try not to use drugs or alcohol in an attempt to feel better. The feeling you get from drugs and alcohol is usually temporary, and the after effects often make problems worse.

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