Medically reviewed by Carina Fung, PharmD, BCPPS

Depression treatment

As mentioned before, those seeking depression treatment have some good news. In as many as 90% of cases, people will eventually respond positively to their depression treatment. And in almost all cases, they will experience some reduction in their depression symptoms.

But finding the right treatment for your depression is contingent on your depression diagnosis (see: Depression Diagnosis). Based off the physical and psychological exams, your doctor may prescribe a variety of treatments.

Here are some of the most common depression treatments, according to the APA9:


Sometimes, the cause of depression is related to the chemical makeup of the individual’s brain. For example, there might be a chemical imbalance of dopamine or issues with neurotransmitters. Medication can work to mitigate or even resolve these issues by modifying the depressed person’s brain chemistry.

The depression treatment medication most often prescribed is an antidepressant.

Depression medications

Everyone can respond to antidepressants differently, so it’s important to maintain an open and honest dialogue with your doctor about how you are feeling while taking your medication. Make sure to describe any and all side effects you may be experiencing.

Don’t forget that in 80% to 90% of cases, people eventually respond positively to their depression treatment. And in almost all cases, they see some reduction in their symptoms. Providers may prescribe the following medications for depression.

May be prescribed

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Misinformation is common when it comes to antidepressants, but there are a few facts you should know. Some people assume that antidepressants give you a “boost”, the way a stimulant or an “upper” would. Others think that antidepressants mellow you out, the way a depressant or a “downer” would.

But most people who don’t have depression would feel no different taking antidepressants.

Also important to note: antidepressants are non-habit-forming drugs.

There has been a rise in the use of antidepressant medication in the United States10. About 1 and 8 people in the United States took antidepressants, which is a 64% increase from 1999. The number is higher in the elderly (nearly 1 in 5) and females, who take antidepressants as a depression treatment at a rate nearly double that of males.

Antidepressants can begin to take effect within the first 2 weeks. Most people will feel less depressed within 2–6 weeks. However, it can take up to 3 months to see the full effects of antidepressant medication.

Your doctor may recommend you stay on antidepressants as a depression treatment long term, or discontinue after a certain period of time. If the current prescription you have isn’t working, your doctor may change your dose or prescription.

It’s important to have an open and honest dialogue with your doctor about the medication, how you feel, and most importantly, to discuss any side effects you may be experiencing.

Any abrupt discontinuation of an antidepressant may cause you to experience antidepressant withdrawal symptoms and raise your chance of relapsing back into depression. A dose taper is typically required, meaning your antidepressant dose will be gradually lessened over a period of time before you are completely taken off your old medication and safely transitioned onto a new one.

Safe medication tapers are done over weeks to months under the direction of your doctor. It is highly recommended to seek and follow guidance from your doctor regarding all medication tapers. It is also important to follow a transition plan to another antidepressant medication that is directed by your doctor.


Another common depression treatment for mild to severe cases is psychotherapy11. People often refer to psychotherapy as “going to my therapist” or “talk therapy”.

For people with more severe depression, it can be especially effective when combined with medication. And for those with milder depression, it can be effective without medication as a standalone treatment.

Psychotherapy can take on many forms depending on the situation:

  • Individual: One-on-one
  • Family: Often to discuss family issues or dynamics
  • Couples: Similar to families, although often dealing with the unique one-to-one relationship of a couple
  • Group: People (often not related) who are dealing with a similar set of circumstances (like cancer support groups or Alcoholics Anonymous)

Additionally, CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) and interpersonal therapy (IPT) are psychotherapy interventions shown to be effective in treating depression.

CBT consists of 16 to 20 sessions delivered in a structured format and can help individuals to recognize and alter their negative thinking and behavior patterns.

IPT consists of 16 sessions with a focus on interpersonal challenges such as grief, interpersonal conflicts, role transitions, and difficulties starting and maintaining relationships.

Generally speaking, everyone responds to therapy differently. Some may need a few sessions, others may require more. Often, after 10 to 15 sessions, patients can make noticeable progress.

Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT)

ECT may sound scary. After all, it is a procedure where brief electrical stimulation is administered into the brain. Typically, ECT is only used in the most severe cases of depression (as determined by a provider) and only after medication, therapy, and all other measures have been exhausted.

While some television and movies may have stigmatized this depression treatment or showcased it in a negative light, ECT is a proper medical procedure that has been developed over 70 years. ECT typically involves an anesthesiologist, who puts you to sleep, a psychiatrist, who administers the electric stimulation, and a team of other medical professionals.

The effects of ECT may occur rapidly within 1 week after starting treatment. Treatment is usually delivered in 12 sessions.

Exercise and healthy living

Exercise has been found to be effective at combating a number of health conditions, from diabetes to stroke. But it can also be beneficial to your mental health12.

In addition to psychotherapy and medication, studies have shown that exercise may act as both a short- and long-term antidepressant. This can be especially true in cases where the patient was not only struggling with depression, but also physically unhealthy.

According to certain studies, it can work equally well for both genders and can be especially effective for older patients.

As for the long term benefits, studies have shown that the longer patients engaged in physical exercise, the more benefits they could yield from those exercises.

Especially in severe cases of depression, exercise may not be the only therapy recommended, but it can work in conjunction with other treatments, like psychotherapy and medication.

Exercise also can help mitigate obesity, which can often be related to depression.

In fact, psychologists have a term called the “obesity-depression cycle”13. Both obesity and depression influence each other, causing a downward spiral. Women seem to be at a greater risk of this phenomenon than men. One study, in particular, discovered that depression in obese women was 37% higher than in women who were non-obese.

If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1–800–273–8255 or text HOME to the Crisis Text Line at 741741.

You may also reach out to the Samaritans: Call or text (877) 870-HOPE (4673).

Disclaimer: The information on this site is generalized and is not medical advice. It is intended to supplement, not substitute for, the expertise and judgment of your healthcare professional. Always seek the advice of your healthcare professional with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard seeking advice or delay in seeking treatment because of something you have read on our site. RxSaver makes no warranty as to the accuracy, reliability or completeness of this information.

If you are in crisis or you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or 911 immediately.