Major Depressive Disorder

Medically reviewed by Carina Fung, PharmD, BCPPS

Major Depressive Disorder Treatment

The two most effective and commonly used treatments17 for depression are psychotherapy and medication. Medications are generally prescribed to help relieve the symptoms of depression and stabilize your mood. This, in turn, may make you more receptive to psychotherapy as you work through your condition with a professional.

If your depression is severe or you are experiencing suicidal thoughts, you may need to be hospitalized or participate in an outpatient treatment program until you are safe and your symptoms improve.

Medication for depression

There are many antidepressants available for treating different forms of depression. As always, discuss what options may be right for you (and ask about any possible side effects) with your healthcare professional.

Medications commonly prescribed to treat depression include:

  • Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs): Providers usually prescribe SSRIs first when treating depression. This type of medication is generally considered to be safer and cause fewer side effects than some other types of antidepressants. Some examples of SSRIs include escitalopram (generic Lexapro), citalopram (generic Celexa), sertraline (generic Zoloft), and fluoxetine (generic Prozac).
  • Serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs): In some cases, SNRIs may be prescribed instead of SSRIs. Some examples of SNRIs include duloxetine (generic Cymbalta), venlafaxine (generic Effexor XR), and desvenlafaxine (generic Pristiq).
  • Atypical antidepressants: These medications aren’t easily classified into another category of antidepressants. Some of these include bupropion (generic Wellbutrin XL, Wellbutrin SR, Forfivo XL), mirtazapine (generic Remeron), trazodone, and vortioxetine (generic Trintellix).
  • Tricyclic antidepressants: Tricyclic antidepressants, including imipramine, nortriptyline (generic Pamelor), and trimipramine can be very effective at treating depression. However, tricyclics aren’t prescribed unless you’ve tried an SSRI first without benefits, as they tend to cause more severe side effects than some newer antidepressants.
  • Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs): MAOIs, including tranylcypromine (generic Parnate), phenelzine (generic Nardil), and isocarboxazid (generic Marplan), are less frequently used. They may be prescribed only when other drugs haven’t worked well, as they can have serious side effects. The dermal patch selegiline (generic Eldepryl, Zelapar) may cause fewer side effects than other MAOIs.
  • Other medications: Your provider may prescribe additional medications to enhance the effects of other antidepressants. They may recommend combining two antidepressants or adding other medications, such as mood stabilizers, antipsychotics, or anti-anxiety and stimulant medications for short-term use.

Major depressive disorder medication

If you have a family member with depression that has responded well to a particular antidepressant, the same medication might also work for you. You may have to try out several medications or combinations of medications before finding what works best. Your provider will also likely start you on a low dose of medication and gradually increase it to your effective dose.

May be prescribed

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Psychotherapy for depression

Psychotherapy, also referred to as talk therapy, involves talking about your condition and related issues and working through them with a mental health professional.

There are many types of therapy that may be beneficial to people with depression, including cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) or interpersonal therapy. Generally, the goal of psychotherapy is to help you:

  • Identify negative or destructive beliefs or behaviors and replace them with healthier, positive ones
  • Adjust to crises or other personal difficulties
  • Find healthier ways to solve and cope with issues
  • Identify what contributes to your depression and change behaviors that may worsen it
  • Explore relationships and experiences and develop positive interactions with others
  • Regain a sense of satisfaction and control
  • Manage symptoms, such as hopelessness, anger, and loss of interest
  • Learn to set realistic goals for yourself and your life
  • Improve your ability to tolerate and accept distress and conflict in healthier ways

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.

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