- What are depression drugs?
- How do antidepressants work?
- What are the types of antidepressants?
- Why are stimulants prescribed for depression?
- What is psychotherapy's role in depression treatment?
- When is electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) recommended for depression?
- What is vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) for depression?
- What is the transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) device for treating depression?
Once you have a depression diagnosis, your doctor will discuss the different depression treatment options with you. The kind of depression treatment that's best for you depends on the type of depression you have. For example, some patients with clinical depression are treated with psychotherapy, and some are prescribed antidepressants. Others are prescribed antidepressants and psychotherapy. Still others may undergo electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), also called electroshock therapy. This treatment may be used with patients who do not respond to standard depression treatment options.
Whatever depression treatment your doctor prescribes, it's important to understand that there are no "instant" solutions. You may have to try different antidepressants to find the most effective drug for you. In addition, you'll have to take the antidepressant for several weeks to see if it benefits you at all. Being patient is important. Trust your doctor to know your personal history. With that, he or she can find the best depression treatment options that help improve your mood.
What Are Depression Drugs?
Depression drugs can help lift your mood and ease the sadness and hopelessness you feel. You'll need to work with your doctor to find the depression medicine that is most effective with the fewest side effects.
How Do Antidepressants Work?
It's thought that three chemical messengers are involved with depression. The three are norepinephrine, serotonin, and dopamine, which are neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters transmit electrical signals between brain cells.
Researchers have found a link between chemical imbalance in these brain chemicals and depression. Antidepressant medications increase the availability of neurotransmitters or by changing the sensitivity of the receptors for these chemical messengers. It is believed that modifying these brain chemicals can help improve mood, although the exact ways they work is still unclear.
What Are the Types of Antidepressants?
There are several types of antidepressants.
These drugs improve symptoms of depression. The major types of antidepressants include:
- Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). SSRIs work by altering the amount of a chemical in the brain called serotonin.
- Serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs). SNRIs are another form of antidepressant medicine. They treat depression by increasing availability of the brain chemicals serotonin and norepinephrine.
- Tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs). TCAs primarily affect the levels of two chemical messengers in the brain, norepinephrine and serotonin. Although these drugs are effective in treating depression, they can have more side effects than other drugs. So they typically aren't the first drugs used.
- Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs). MAOIs are most effective in people with depression who do not respond to other treatments. They are also effective for treating other mental illnesses. Substances in certain foods like cheese, beverages like wine, and medications can interact with an MAOI. So people taking this drug must adhere to strict dietary restrictions. For this reason these antidepressants also aren't usually the first drugs used.
There are other antidepressants that are not members of these classes.
Why Are Stimulants Prescribed for Depression?
Doctors sometimes prescribe other medications such as stimulants and anti-anxiety drugs to use in conjunction with an antidepressant. This is especially likely if the patient has a co-existing mental or physical disorder. However, neither anti-anxiety medications nor stimulants are effective against depression when taken alone.
Talk to your doctor about this type of treatment. Ask if it might boost the effect of your antidepressant.
What Is Psychotherapy's Role in Depression Treatment?
The role of psychotherapy in treating depression is to help the person develop appropriate and workable coping strategies. These strategies help deal with everyday stressors and increase medication adherence. There are different types of psychotherapy, including individual, family, and group therapy. Your doctor will help you find the best type of psychotherapy for you.
When Is Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT) Recommended for Depression?
Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), also known as electroshock therapy, is typically used to treat severe depression. During ECT, a skilled doctor applies a brief electric current through the scalp to the brain. This current induces a seizure. ECT is very effective at treating depression.
ECT is generally used when severe depression is unresponsive to other forms of therapy. Or it might be used when patients pose a severe threat to themselves or others and it is dangerous to wait until medications take effect.
For in-depth information, see WebMD's Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT) for Depression.
What Is Vagus Nerve Stimulation (VNS) for Depression?
Vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) can be used to treat those with treatment-resistant depression, using a pacemaker-like device that is implanted in the body. Once implanted, this device delivers regular electrical impulses to the vagus nerve, one of the nerves that relays information to and from the brain.
What Is the Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) Device for Treating Depression?
The FDA has cleared the NeuroStar TMS device for treating depressed adults for whom one antidepressant has failed to work.
While ECT uses an electric current to induce seizure, TMS creates a magnetic field to induce a much smaller electric current in a specific part of the brain without causing seizure or loss of consciousness.
TMS is used to treat milder depression and works best in patients who have failed to benefit from one, but not two or more, antidepressant treatments. Also, unlike ECT, TMS does not require sedation and is administered on an outpatient basis.
Patients undergoing TMS must be treated four or five times a week for four weeks.
WebMD Medical Reference
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
National Institute of Mental Health: "What is Depression?" "Brain Stimulation Therapies."
FDA: "The Lowdown on Depression."
Mental Health America: Mpower: "Facts about Depression and Suicide."
Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance: "Psychotherapy: How it works and how it can help."
American Psychiatric Association. Practice Guideline for the Treatment of Patients with Major Depression, 2000.
American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders: DSM-IV-TR, American Psychiatric Pub, 2000.
Fieve, R. Bipolar II, Rodale Books, 2006.
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD on March 09, 2011
© 2011 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.
Top Depression Related Articles
Bipolar Disorder (Mania) QuizWho is at risk for developing bipolar disorder? Are you? Take this Bipolar Disorder Quiz to learn more about bipolar disorder, if you're at risk, and what you can do about it.
What Is Bipolar Disorder? Symptoms, Manic Episodes, TestingBipolar disorder (formerly "manic depression") causes extreme mood shifts and manic episodes. Learn about bipolar 1, bipolar 2, and the meaning of bipolar disorder. Our experts define bipolar disorder, discuss bipolar symptoms, and describe bipolar medications that can help.
Body Pain: What Does It Mean When Your Whole Body Aches?Body aches are a symptom of the flu, arthritis, autoimmune disease, infections like Lyme disease, and other conditions. Body pain and muscle aches may accompany fever, headache, and other symptoms. Body aches are a general symptom of many potential underlying conditions. Only a doctor can diagnose and treat the cause.
CancerCancer is a disease caused by an abnormal growth of cells, also called malignancy. It is a group of 100 different diseases, and is not contagious. Cancer can be treated through chemotherapy, a treatment of drugs that destroy cancer cells.
Cupping is a type of traditional Chinese medicine that stimulates the flow of chi (qi, or energy) within the body. There are a few different types of cupping: air, fire, wet, and the sliding cups technique. Cupping purports to bring impurities to the skin's surface and remove toxins. Oftentimes, cupping leaves marks, or bruises, on the skin.
Learn to Spot Depression: Symptoms, Warning Signs, MedicationKnow when you or someone else is depressed. Get information on depression symptoms, signs, tests, and treatments for many types of depression chronic depression and postpartum depression.
Depression QuizMany people do not recognize the symptoms and warning signs of depression and depressive disorders in children and adults. With proper diagnosis, treatments and medications are available. Take this quiz to learn more about recovery from depression.
Drug Interactions: What Foods, Drugs, Herbs Affect Medications?What foods, drugs, and herbal supplements interact with your pharmaceuticals? Learn about grapefruit and other common drug interactions to medications like warfarin, tramadol, Zoloft, trazodone, gabapentin, melatonin, Xanax, Lexapro, lithium, Lisinopril, Mucinex, and more.
Indigestion (Dyspepsia, Upset Stomach Pain)Indigestion (dyspepsia) can be caused by diseases or conditions that involve the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, and also by some diseases and conditions that do not involve the GI tract. Indigestion can be a chronic condition in which the symptoms fluctuate in frequency and intensity. Signs and symptoms that accompany indigestion include pain in the chest, upper abdominal pain, belching, nausea, bloating, abdominal distention, feeling full after eating only a small portion of food, and rarely, vomiting.
Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT)Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) involves passing an electrical current through the brain to produce controlled seizures. ECT is useful for patients with severe depression and for those who are suicidal. ECT is administered in a hospital setting under anesthesia. A common side effect is short-term memory loss.
Genetic Diseases (Disorder Definition, Types, and Examples)The definition of a genetic disease is a disorder or condition caused by abnormalities in a person's genome. Some types of genetic inheritance include single inheritance, including cystic fibrosis, sickle cell anemia, Marfan syndrome, and hemochromatosis. Other types of genetic diseases include multifactorial inheritance. Still other types of genetic diseases include chromosome abnormalities (for example, Turner syndrome, and Klinefelter syndrome), and mitochondrial inheritance (for example, epilepsy and dementia).
Grief and MourningGrief is the feeling one experiences after a loss (of a friendship, death of loved one, job). Complicated grief refers to grief that lasts for more than a year. Mourning describes the customs and rituals that help bereaved individuals make sense of their loss.
Penis PumpVacuum constriction devices, or penis pumps, may be useful in the treatment of erectile dysfunction (impotence). A penis pump is an acrylic cylinder with a pump that can be attached to the end of the penis. The pump then creates a vacuum to help the penis become erect, while a constriction ring maintains the erection.
PsychotherapyPsychoteraphy is often the first form of treatment recommended for depression. Psychotherapy helps depression by helping people understand the behaviors, emotions and ideas that contribute to their depression, regain a sense of control and pleasure in life, and learn coping techniques as well as problem solving skills.
Vagus Nerve Stimulation (VNS) for Seizures
Vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) is a technique used to treat epilepsy. It involves implanting a pacemaker-like device that generates pulses of electricity to stimulate the vagus nerve. The vagus nerve is one of the 12 cranial nerves, the paired nerves that attach to the undersurface of the brain and relay information to and from the brain.
Vitamin D Deficiency Symptoms and TreatmentVitamin D deficiency has been linked with rickets, cancer, cardiovascular disease, severe asthma in children and cognitive impairment in older adults. Causes include not ingesting enough of the vitamin over time, having limited exposure to sunlight, having dark skin, and obesity. Symptoms include bone pain and muscle weakness. Treatment for vitamin D deficiency involves obtaining more vitamin D through supplements, diet, or exposure to sunlight.