How is depression treated?

If you have watched TV, gone online or read a newspaper in the last six years or so, you’ve probably noticed that the subject of depression has entered the national conversation in a big way. It’s for good reason, too – 16 million adults in the U.S. had at least one major depressive episode in the past year.

The cause of depression is a complex mixture of genetic and environmental factors. “When we’re talking about mental illnesses, like depression, we aren’t talking about a single cause and effect,” Andrew Cutler, MD, Meridien Research’s Chief Medical Officer said. “There are many phases in the neural system that may have one or more failures. That means that one medication may work at one phase, yet may not help the patient because the cause is at a different phase or occurs over multiple phases.”

Indeed, antidepressant medications are the most common treatment for depression. Due to the variations in the causes of each person’s depression, antidepressants are not one size fits all. Individuals might have to try several different drugs before finding the one that most effectively improves their symptoms. Many doctors initially try medications that target serotonin or noradrenaline pathways. These are two neurotransmitters that affect mood. A deficit in either one has been linked to depression, so certain drugs help increase these neurotransmitters in the brain to relieve symptoms.

One downside of antidepressants is that they take some time – about two to four weeks – to become effective once individuals begin taking them. Also, the drugs will likely improve sleep, appetite and concentration before improving mood, so individuals might feel like the medication isn’t working for them. Continuing research is needed to develop drugs that alleviate all types and phases of depression.

“We always need new medicines because we are looking at all of the different phases of a very complex system,” said Dr. Cutler.

In combination with antidepressants, here are some other ways to help relieve depression symptoms:

  • Talk therapy or counseling
  • Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), if antidepressants are not effectively managing your symptoms. It can be an effective treatment for severe depression and can be done safely and quickly on an outpatient basis with no major side effects. Talk to your doctor if you would like to consider this treatment.
  • Exercise and physical activity
  • Setting realistic goals and recognizing even the smallest of accomplishments
  • Spending time with others and confiding in trusted friends or relatives
  • Allowing others to help you when you need it
  • Delay big decisions, like changing jobs or getting married, until you feel better. Discuss decisions with others who know you well and have a more objective point of view.
  • Continue to educate yourself about depression

Meridien Research is currently enrolling participants in clinical trials investigating depression. If you think you or someone you know could be a good fit for this study, please call 888-777-8839 for a confidential discussion.