Treatments for depression

The first step to getting treatment is to see your GP. If your doctor thinks you have depression, they will talk to you about the treatments they can offer.

Talking therapies for depression

Talking therapies are available through the NHS, though there may be long waiting lists. You can also get talking therapy through private healthcare providers and some charities. It may be that not all therapies are available in your area. Most areas offer a self-referral option for NHS talking therapies. You may also be able to access therapy through your employer. Some types of therapy include:

  • Cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT)
  • Psychodynamic therapy
  • Interpersonal therapy
  • Group therapy
  • Relationship counselling
  • Bereavement counselling

The type of therapy you are offered will depend on the cause of your symptoms and their severity. Therapies may also have different levels based on how long or intense the treatment is.

When you finish treatment, your doctor may suggest Mindfulness Based CBT (MCBT) which can be helpful if your depression comes back. MCBT combines mindfulness techniques like breathing exercises and meditation with CBT.

Computerised cognitive behavioural therapy (cCBT)

cCBT is used to help treat mild to moderate depression. You learn CBT techniques online in the same way you would go through sessions with a therapist. It can be helpful after you have finished talking therapies to stop your symptoms coming back.

‘Beating the Blues’ is one of the cCBT programmes you can get. It’s free, but you should talk to your GP about it before using it.

Medication for depression

Your doctor may offer you antidepressants in combination with other treatments. You may need to try medications before finding one that works for you. Antidepressants can have side effects and affect other medicines you are taking. Your doctor will check if you have physical health conditions or if you take other medication.

Common antidepressants include:

  • Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)
  • Serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs)
  • Tricyclics and tricyclic-related drugs
  • Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs)

It’s important to talk to your doctor if you want to stop taking your medication because stopping suddenly can cause problems.

If you don’t want to take antidepressants, tell your doctor and you can discuss other options.

Some mental health medication can cause problems with weight gain. Exercise could help you manage this.

Brain Stimulation

Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT)

ECT should only be considered as a treatment for severe, life-threatening, depression. Or you may be given ECT if no other treatments have worked. In this treatment, an electrical current is briefly passed through your brain while you are under general anaesthetic.

Transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS)

This treatment involves using a small battery-operated machine to pass a low current through your brain to stimulate activity. You are awake during the procedure, with daily sessions for several weeks.

Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS)

rTMS uses electromagnetic coils to deliver pulses of magnetic energy to specific parts of your brain. This stimulates the brain and may help to reduce depression and anxiety. You are awake during the procedure and can leave hospital the same day. If this is offered, you may have daily sessions for several weeks.

Exercise therapy

Regular exercise can help with your mood if you experience depression. Some GP surgeries will put you in touch with local exercise schemes. This is sometimes called ‘exercise on prescription’ and can give you access to free or reduced cost programmes.

Complementary or alternative therapies

Complementary therapies are treatments which are not part of mainstream medical care. They can include aromatherapy, herbal remedies, acupuncture, massage, meditation and yoga. These treatments may help improve your emotional wellbeing and may help with side effects.

Self-help methods

You can learn to manage your symptoms by looking after yourself. Self-care is how you take care of your diet, exercise, daily routine, relationships and how you are feeling. You will learn how to notice when you are becoming unwell and know what your triggers are.

Diet

Our diet affects our physical health. Some people deal with their depression by eating high-fat and high-sugar foods. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) can make you crave sugary carbohydrates like cakes and biscuits. To manage your diet you can:

  • Eat regular meals
  • Eat a healthy balance of fat and reduce the amount of trans-fats you eat
  • Eat fruit, vegetables and wholegrain
  • Eat oily fish such as salmon, mackerel, herring or trout
  • Drink 6-8 glasses of water per day
  • Limit your caffeine in drinks such as tea, coffee or fizzy drinks
  • Limit the amount of alcohol you drink

Exercise

Exercising regularly can help with your mood. It can also help if you have problems sleeping.
How much you can do depends on your age, physical health and fitness. If you do not exercise already, start with small amounts and fit this into your daily routine. You can then slowly increase the amount you do. This approach may help with your motivation.

Some ideas for exercise:

  • Going for a walk
  • Cycling
  • Gardening
  • Jogging or running
  • Playing sport
  • Gym
  • Housework

You can speak to your doctor if you have any concerns before starting to exercise.

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