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David Baxter

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What Kind Of Treatment Is Available?
August 29, 2005
InteliHealth, Harvard Medical School

Your health-care provider will recommend treatment depending on what comes up in your evaluation. An effective treatment plan will address your needs over time.

Initial treatment (the first two months) aims to reduce or relieve symptoms and address the problems that cause you the most stress.

Ongoing treatment (the next four to five months) aims to firm up any improvement and prevent relapse, or a backslide into depression.

Long-term treatment aims to prevent recurrence of depressive (or manic) episodes.

People diagnosed with depression are most likely to improve if they are treated with a combination of drug treatment and psychotherapy. However, they will also need adequate support at home, in school or at work.

Drug Treatment
Antidepressant drugs have been available since the 1950s. There are many varieties available. Although selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors are the most widely used antidepressants, your health-care provider may recommend other types of antidepressants or other types of drugs depending on your problem. Some drugs stabilize mood for people who have ups and downs. Antianxiety drugs will help those who deal with anxiety, and antipsychotic drugs are available to help with distorted thinking.

Psychotherapy
The type of psychotherapy (talk therapy) that may best help depends on your style and the source of your problem.

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy focuses on thought patterns and behaviors.
  • Interpersonal therapy addresses problems and conflicts that come up in important relationships.
  • Psychodynamic therapy aims to improve insight and help resolve internal psychological conflicts that may interfere with your progress or satisfaction in life.
Couple, Family And Group Therapy
Sometimes, your problems lie in a key relationship, such as your marriage or your family. Couple and/or family therapy may help your loved ones learn about depression. A therapist also may provide advice about how to be supportive.

Group therapy also can be very helpful. Support groups encourage members to share experiences and information. Some groups provide education about depression and its treatment. Or they may focus on teaching practical skills. You may learn how to be more effective in your relationships by observing your interactions with other group members.

Other Options
A controversial treatment for depression, electroconvulsive treatment, is also the most effective. It is very safe, although it is generally reserved for emergencies or when severe depression has not responded to other types of treatment.

Light therapy is recommended for people whose depression occurs in a seasonal pattern.
 

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