Treating and preventing depression

Most types of depression respond to either an antidepressant medication or psychotherapy. Sometimes people with depression are unaware that medications can help them, or they are hesitant to take antidepressant medications to manage their condition. However there are many different medications available today to help treat depression. You and your doctor can work together to decide which medication is best for you.

Medications used to treat depression may take 4 to 8 weeks to work, although improvements in some symptoms may be seen within the first few weeks. In some situations, more than one medication will need to be tried until you find the most appropriate one. All medications, including antidepressants, can have side effects. Your doctor and pharmacist should explain common side effects to you and help you to manage them should they occur.

Herbals:Some studies show that St. John's wort may be effective for mild to moderate depression. Talk to your doctor and pharmacist before taking any herbals or over-the-counter medications. Keep in mind that some herbal medications may interact with prescription or over-the-counter medications.

Psychotherapy can be an important part of managing depression. Psychiatrists, psychologists, and some family doctors are trained to help people learn to identify and manage negative beliefs and thought patterns that may be contributing to their depression. Many people find a combination of psychotherapy and medications give them the best results. Support groups, friends, and family can also help.

Other treatments:

In more severe cases, electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is used but is generally reserved for those who do not respond to medications.

Light therapy (or "phototherapy," which involves controlled exposure to artificial sunlight) can help some people overcome symptoms associated with seasonal affective disorder.

Physical activity and sports can improve depression by helping to relieve anxiety, increase appetite, aid sleep, and improve mood and self-esteem. Exercise also increases the body's production of endorphins, a natural mood-elevating hormone.

An active lifestyle, supportive family and friends, and a positive outlook can go a long way in coping with depression.

The contents of this health site are for informational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition.

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