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Self-help strategies may sometimes not be enough on their own to get things back on track. Other methods used to treat depression include psychological treatments and medication. Learn more about the different options and how to find support.

This can help if:

  • you want more information about treatments for depression
  • you’ve tried self-help strategies and things haven’t been improving
  • you’re worried about a friend and want to know about treatment options.
Black and white girl at table with laptop

Why treat depression?

Depression can seriously interfere with your life. We know it isn’t the case that people can just ‘snap out of it’, and that it can take some time to recover from depression, with many ups and downs along the way. Figuring out the best treatment approach can be difficult, so it’s important to seek advice from your GP. Together, self-help strategies and professional support will help in managing depression and make things much easier.

How to treat depression

Depression is likely the result of biological factors (such as your genes or the chemicals in your brain) and environmental factors (such as stressful life experiences). Depression also exists in many different forms, ranging on a spectrum from mild to severe.

This means that a treatment plan for depression is going to look different for every person and will include different components. For example, mild depression might involve a lot of self-help (things like physical exercise), while severe depression might involve more focused psychological treatment and medication. (See below for more information on this.)

It can sometimes take a bit of time, but with the help of your doctor, you’ll be able to work out a treatment plan that works for you.

Psychological treatments for depression

Psychological treatments can work alongside medication or on their own. They’re usually provided by an expert such as a psychologist, psychiatrist or other mental health professional, and they involve changing negative patterns of thinking, or working to improve relationships.

Types of psychological treatments that might be used include:

  • Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). This type of therapy has the most research evidence behind it. It usually involves a clinical psychologist working with you to change negative thought patterns and behaviours that contribute to low mood. Nowadays online CBT programs (such as MoodGYM) are also available and have been proven to be effective as well.
  • Interpersonal therapy. This is a structured program for improving relationships, which is important because the presence of healthy, supportive relationships has been proven to help in reducing depression symptoms, and in preventing relapse, whilst relationship difficulties can worsen symptoms.
  • Other types of psychotherapy. This can include things such as acceptance and commitment therapy (a therapy based on mindfulness) or structured problem solving (which involves working with a therapist to identify problems and figuring out how to overcome them).

    Your psychologist or psychiatrist will be able to help you work out the best approach for you, based on identifying the main factors contributing to your depression and the best ways to target them.

More about medication for depression

Anti-depressant medication is most effective when taken in addition to psychological therapy. Medications usually take a few weeks or months before any improvement is seen. There are several different types of anti-depressant medications prescribed by GPs or psychiatrists. The common types of anti-depressants are:

  • Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs)
  • Selective Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRIs)

There are many different types of SSRIs and SNRIs, and they work in different ways, but put simply: they target chemical changes in the brain. Like most medications, there can be side-effects, and some medications are better suited to adults than young people. It’s important to ask about what options you have, how the medication will affect you, and how to take it safely. You should never change (either increase or decrease) the amount of medication you take without speaking to your GP or psychiatrist first.

Inpatient support

Sometimes, if your depression is severe and seriously affecting your life, you might need more intensive support, such as a short stay in hospital. Here, mental health professionals can monitor your treatments and look after you until you’re better able to manage your symptoms.

What can I do now?

  • Write down questions you have about therapy or medication.
  • Make an appointment with your GP.
  • Get personalised support options for depression with the ReachOut NextStep tool.