Depression affects everyone differently. Some may feel hopeless, others may stay in bed all day, and others may not find pleasure in things they used to love and no longer feel like themselves.
No matter how it feels, unfortunately, there isn’t a cure for depression. However, a wide range of treatments can help manage symptoms so that people can feel “normal” and return to their daily lives.
In this article, I’ll first clarify the difference between a treatment and a cure. Then I’ll then discuss various treatments for depression, including new discoveries. I’ll also explain why depression may or may not go away and when to seek help.
It may take time and trial and error, but you can find a way to manage your depression—and it’s totally worth it.
Treatment vs Cure for Depression
A cure is something that makes an illness go away forever. On the other hand, a treatment is something that helps improve health but does not eradicate the condition or disorder altogether.
With the right treatments and lifestyle changes, a person living with depression can recover from their symptoms and go on to live a happy life.
Available Treatments for Depression
If you are diagnosed with a type of depression, your medical professional will likely recommend one or more of the following treatments.
Psychotherapy, also known as “talk therapy”, offers a safe space for an individual to identify their problems and repeating patterns, and learn healthy coping mechanisms. The following types of therapy are often used to treat depression:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT): CBT is considered the “gold standard of psychotherapy”. It works to modify a person’s thought patterns and behaviors, in turn helping change their feelings and emotions. You may learn healthy coping mechanisms, positive self-talk, cognitive restructuring, behavioral activation, or guided discovery and questioning.
- Interpersonal therapy (IPT): This approach helps you recognize and address challenges in your personal relationships that impact your depressive symptoms. IPT can help you develop skills to manage difficult emotions, improve communication, and participate in social activities.
- Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT): This approach combines CBT and mindfulness techniques like meditation and present-moment awareness. It helps build deeper self-awareness so that you can identify what triggers depressive symptoms and manage them, thus reducing the likelihood of them recurring.
Several medications can effectively reduce depressive symptoms. Most mental health professionals recommend combining medication and therapy because although medication treats depressive symptoms, it doesn’t identify the underlying causes or triggers. Your medical professional may prescribe any of the following:
- Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are the most prescribed and usually the first approach to treatment
- Serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) may help those who have both depression and a chronic pain condition
- Tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs) are typically prescribed to individuals who don’t respond to other antidepressants
- Atypical antidepressants may offer relief from sexual side effects of other antidepressants
- Mood stabilizers or antipsychotics can boost the effects of an antidepressant
If depression symptoms persist after trying therapy and medication, a medical professional may recommend brain stimulation.. Brain stimulation comes in the following forms:
- Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT): During ECT, electrical impulses are delivered to the brain to trigger a seizure, which is experienced under anesthesia. This changes electrical activity in your brain and can quickly reverse symptoms of certain mental health conditions. Modern ECT is very different from the “shock therapy” administered in the mid-20th century.
- Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS): TMS, sometimes referred to as repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS), delivers magnetic impulses to your brain externally. These impulses are believed to help stimulate nerves in the brain and increase brain activity.
- Vagus nerve stimulation: During this treatment, a device implanted in the chest sends regular, mild pulses of electrical energy to your brain stem through the vagus nerve in your neck. Vagus nerve stimulation is believed to help restore the balance of brain chemicals associated with depression.
Other Treatments for Depression
In addition to psychotherapy and medication, a wide variety of other treatments and practices may help ease depressive symptoms.
A 2019 systematic review of 29 studies found that acupuncture can offer great relief of depression on its own and in combination with antidepressants.
According to a 2019 study, getting as little as two and a half hours of physical activity each week may help relieve depression. The study also found that outdoor activity had more benefits than indoor physical activity did. Exercise increases blood flow to the brain, which releases endorphins, chemicals that can boost mood.
Music therapy or music medicine (listening to music on your own) may help temporarily relieve depressive symptoms. Choose music with upbeat lyrics and melodies to help boost your mood.
Why Depression May or May Not Go Away
Not everyone responds to every treatment for depression. Whether your depression may or may not go away can be determined by a few factors.
Certain types of depression last longer than others. For instance, seasonal affective disorder (SAD) may occur during the winter months and ease in the springtime, but major depressive disorder (MDD) could extend beyond two years or come and go throughout your life.
If depression is attributed to a specific life event, it may ease up once this event passes. Examples of this include postpartum depression and situational depression. Some people assigned female at birth experience premenstrual dysphoric disorder, which is a depression associated with premenstrual syndrome. Speak with your medical provider if you believe depressive symptoms are linked to hormonal changes. They can help you find an effective treatment.
Symptoms of depression can range from mild to severe. In circumstances where the symptoms are mild, depression may resolve itself without any specific treatment. For more severe symptoms, depression could require medications, psychotherapy, and/or other forms of treatment.
Finding Help for Depression
If you are experiencing depression, get the help you need with SAMHSA’s National Helpline: 1-800-662-4357. This free and confidential helpline is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and 365 days a year. It offers treatment referral and information service (in English and Spanish) for individuals and families facing mental and/or substance use disorders.
Additionally, organizations such as the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) offer support groups, education, and other resources to help those with depression and other mental health conditions and their families and friends.
If you’re experiencing suicidal thoughts, call 911 or the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline at 988. You can also text “HOME” to the Crisis Text Line at 741741.
How to Get Online Mental Health Support
Want mental health support? Get connected to care in minutes. K Therapy offers free smart chats, which are dynamic, pre-written conversations designed by experts that cover a range of common mental health topics such as depression, anxiety, stress, relationships, and more. Access them for free by downloading the K Therapy app.
K Health also offers depression medication for the right candidates.
Online therapists are also available in select states for individualized care. Connect with a licensed mental health therapist for unlimited asynchronous text-based therapy. Therapists respond Monday through Friday between 9 am – 5 pm, within 24 hours.
Frequently Asked Questions
K Health has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We avoid using tertiary references.
Acupuncture for Depression: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. (2019).
Antidepressant effects of ketamine in depressed patients. (2000).
Antidepressants for Pediatric Patients. (2019).
Effects of music therapy on depression: A meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. (2020).
Effects of Psilocybin-Assisted Therapy on Major Depressive Disorder. (2020).
How does sport affect mental health? An investigation into the relationship of leisure-time physical activity with depression and anxiety. (2019).
Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy for depression: trends and developments. (2016).
Stanford Accelerated Intelligent Neuromodulation Therapy for Treatment-Resistant Depression. (2020).
Why Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Is the Current Gold Standard of Psychotherapy. (2018).