Unfortunately there is no ‘catch all’ cure for depression, but there are a range of treatment options available to us. Different treatments will prove helpful to different people – depending on the nature of our depression, the severity of our illness, and also our personal circumstances.
In this post, we give a very brief introduction to the most common treatments available. All have their own pros and cons which we should research before embarking on a course of treatment; and of course, all decisions about treatment should be made in consultation with a medical professional.
For those of us based in the UK, it’s worth noting that while some treatments are available on the NHS, some require us to pay privately. This can be area dependent – so treatments available on the NHS in one part of the country might not be the same as those available in other areas.
Behavioural activation encourages those living with depression to schedule and approach activities, particularly activities we may have been avoiding. It can also look at analysing the reasons that we avoid certain tasks. It can help us to refocus on our goals and the direction we’re taking our life in.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)
CBT is a therapy which aims to help us to understand our thoughts and behaviours and how they affect us. It recognises that our thoughts, feelings, physical sensations, and actions are all connected and that our negative thoughts and feelings can trap us in a vicious cycle. CBT focuses on the here and now rather than looking at the past, and looks at practical ways to improve our state of mind on a daily basis.
Cognitive Analytic Therapy (CAT)
CAT looks at our previous experiences and how they might relate to the current issues we’re facing. Once our therapist has understood what we struggle with, they will look at our current coping mechanisms and how effective they are. They will then help us to develop new coping tools, which can help us both cope with our current problems, and any future problems we might have.
Combination therapy just means combining at least two types of therapy. This often means a talking therapy with a medication, but could also mean taking more than one type of medication.
Counselling is a way for us to talk about our problems and feelings in a safe, confidential, space. Counsellors won’t usually give advice, instead they listen, support us, and help us to develop our own understanding of our problems.
Sometimes, depression can lead to problems within relationships, or sometimes relationship problems can contribute to depression. Couples therapy provides a safe and confidential space for couples to work through these problems with the help of a trained counsellor.
Art, drama, dance, music , poetry and play therapy are all types of creative therapies. Creative therapies allow us to express ourselves and communicate in different ways, which can sometimes feel easier than trying to find the words to explain exactly how we’re feeling. They can also provide an escape from our thoughts and feelings. Sometimes these therapies might be available through the NHS, sometimes we might have to pay for them privately.
If we feel as though we are in crisis – which could include (but isn’t limited to) feeling unsafe, having intense suicidal thoughts, or feeling as though we need to self-harm – there is help out there. We are never alone. Crisis support is usually very quick support which can help us to keep us safe. It might involve speaking to someone, on the phone, online or in person.
Dialectical Behavioural Therapy (DBT)
In some areas, DBT is used to treat depression. DBT is about accepting ourselves as we are, difficult emotions included, and making positive changes in our lives.
Ecotherapy, or horticulture therapy, is about promoting wellbeing through being out and about, and connecting with nature. Some areas might offer it through the NHS, or through local conservation areas.
Exercise can release endorphins which can give us positive feelings. It can be hard to get started – but if it’s something we’d like to and are able to do, exercise can help to reduce some symptoms of depression.
Home Treatment Team (HTT)
The Home Treatment Team, sometimes called Intensive Home Treatment Team or Crisis Resolution, are there to help us if we are really struggling and need quick and effective help. Normally, if we are under the home treatment, we will see them daily for a short period of time, either in our home or in another venue that we feel more comfortable in.
If we feel unable to keep ourselves safe, and don’t have enough support in the community to help us stay safe, we might need to go into hospital for a period of time until we are well enough to be back in the community again. We might choose to go into hospital voluntarily, or we might need professionals to take the decision out of our hands.
Inter-Personal Therapy (IPT)
IPT focuses on the difficulties we have in our relationships. It aims to show the links between our mood and our interactions with others, identifying any patterns that occur so that we can improve both our mood and our relationships.
There are a number of different medications that might be used to help treat depression. The most common medication that we might be prescribed are anti-depressants. Different anti-depressants work in slightly different ways, and usually we will need to take them for a number of weeks before we notice any difference. It might also take a while to get the dose right. It’s important that we take our anti-depressants as prescribed: even if we don’t think they’re working, we should not stop taking them without talking to our doctor, because that may give us nasty withdrawal effects. It’s also important that we speak to our doctor if we are worried that we are experiencing significant side-effects.
If we have other symptoms accompanying our depression, we may be prescribed other psychiatric medications. such as antianxieties, antipsychotics, or sleeping medications.
Mindfulness is about being more aware of the world around us, and our own thoughts and feelings in the present moment. It can help us appreciate the world around us more, and to understand ourselves better. It allows us to step back from our thoughts and start to see patterns in how we think. With practice, mindfulness can allow us to see that our thoughts are just thoughts – releasing their control over us.
Occupational therapists can provide support to help us do the activities that are important to us. Depression can knock us off our feet, and prevent us from doing the things we enjoy; an occupational therapist can help us to identify our strengths and difficulties, and use different techniques to support us to reach our goals.
Computerised cognitive behavioural therapy (CCBT) is available through the NHS in a number of areas; the programme used and availability will depend on where we live, but our GP should know what’s available to us. Other courses exist elsewhere online, but these are likely to be things we have to pay for.
Peer Support Groups
Peer support groups are groups where we meet others with a similar experiences to us. It can help us to feel less isolated, and to meet others who really understand what we’re going through. There may be peer support groups available locally, either through a charity or the NHS.
Psychodynamic psychotherapy takes place with a trained psychotherapist. They encourage us to say whatever is going through our minds, to help us become more aware of the patterns in our thoughts and actions, and how they contribute to how we’re feeling.
Recovery colleges are available in some areas. Though content will vary, the general idea is that they run courses and sessions on managing our mental health. There are sometimes courses for friends, family, and carers too; helping them to better understand mental health and mental illness.
Repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (rTMS)
rTMS involves stimulating the brain using electromagnetic energy. An electromagnetic coil is held against our head and electromagnetic energy is delivered at various frequencies and intensities. A course of treatment normally lasts about two to six weeks, and sessions would be delivered daily for about 30 minutes.
Self-help books can help us to work through things and begin to look at our life in a different way. There are a range of books on prescription through the NHS. We also have a number of books in our shop.
St. Johns Wort
St. John’s Wort is a herbal treatment which some people take for depression. It’s not recommended by doctors but there is some evidence to say it can help mild to moderate depression. It can’t be taken with a number of medications, so if we are thinking of taking it we should always discuss it with our GP.
Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation (tDCS)
tDCS involves stimulating brain activity using an electric current. Electrodes are places on our head and a constant, low-strength current is delivered to our brain. Treatments last about 20 to 30 minutes and a course of treatment would normally be several weeks.
Watchful waiting can be used for mild depression. This is where our GP sees us two weeks after our initial visit, to see if our depression has improved by itself.
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