Depression Patient Information Fact Sheet

How is depression treated?
Depression is treated with counseling and/or antidepressant drugs. Antidepressants can be taken over a long period of time and are not addictive. However, they need to be taken regularly for some weeks to have an effect, and then continued for at least six months to avoid relapse of depressive symptoms. Some people experience side effects such as a dry mouth or feeling sick when they first take antidepressants, but these usually wear off after one to two weeks. There are several different classes of antidepressants but they all aim to correct the chemical imbalance in the body that is thought to causes the symptoms of depression.These classes include selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), tricyclic antidepressants, and other classes. Your doctor will prescribe an antidepressant that he or she thinks is best suited to you as an individual. Counseling helps you talk through your feelings and any problems. If you need counseling your doctor will refer you to a counselor.

Self-help measures

  • Learn how to relax using relaxation exercises and tapes, yoga, meditation or aromatherapy to relieve the tension, anxiety, and irritability of depression.
  • Exercise to stimulate your levels of brain chemicals and make you feel more alert and motivated.
  • Slow down your pace of life: take a vacation, try to reduce your work stress, and take short rests (even if only for a few minutes) during the day.
  • Eat a well-balanced diet. Depression may tempt you to under- or overeat (especially junk food). A diet lacking the necessary vitamins and minerals can make you feel worse.
  • Avoid smoking, illegal drugs, and alcohol. These may give you a short-term “high”, but are not helpful in the long run.
  • Keep occupied, through a hobby, reading a book or even watching television. You will dwell on your depression when inactive, making you feel worse.
  • Join a self-help group. Discussing your fears and symptoms with other sufferers will help you feel less isolated. Details of self-help groups are available through Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (see below).

Further information
Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance:
National Institute of Mental Health:

Last Reviewed: May 2013