How to Cure Depression: Medications, Psychoherapy & More

Updated in August 2022

Curing depression is focused on managing symptoms, improving quality of life and decreasing suicide risk. The underlying causes of depression are not totally known, however there are many treatment approaches to managing depression, which can include medications, psychotherapy and alternative therapy. Read more about the possible causes of depression

To treat depression, a psychologist or psychiatrist may opt to use one or more modalities, which can be offered separately or as a combination. The type of treatment, the duration and medication dosing vary from person to person. 

In more mild cases, treatment with medication may not be necessary. Some people may respond well just to psychotherapy. However, more serious cases may require hospital admission for observation, until symptoms improve. 

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Depression can be managed using one or more of the following modalities:

1. Medication

Medications used for depression are called antidepressants. They are used to replenish neurotransmitters in the brain, like serotonin, dopamine and noradrenaline, which are usually reduced with depression. Medications are indicated for moderate to serious cases of depression. Learn more about the symptoms of depression you should not ignore- 

The main antidepressants used for the treatment of depression are: 

Antidepressant class Generic names Possible side effects
Tricyclic antidepressants Imipramine, clomiprmine, amitriptyline, nortriptyline  Dry mouth, urinary retention, constipation, drowsiness, low blood pressure, dizziness when standing, sexual problems like erectile dysfunction 
Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors  Fluoxetine, paroxetine, citalopram, escitlopram, sertraline or trazodone Dizziness, dry mouth, excessive sweat production, nervousness, nausea, headache and problems with ejaculation 
Serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors Venlafaxine, desvenlafaxine, duloxetine or mirtazapine Dry mouth, insomnia, nervousness, tremors, dizziness, vomiting, problems with ejaculation, excessive sweating and blurry vision. 
Monoaminoxidase inhibitors  Selegiline, pargyline, phenelzine or toloxatone Increased sweat production, orthostatic hypotension, increased heart rate, nausea, insomnia, sexual dysfunction 

Medications can take 2 to 6 weeks to have effect, and duration of treatment can vary from person to person. Some people only require a short period of medication, like 6 months, while others may require medication for years. A patient’s response to treatment will help the doctor to determine the duration of treatment, the dose and the type of medication prescribed. 

The sole use of medication may not be sufficient in treating depression. It is important for patients to be followed by a psychologist and to engage in psychotherapy sessions that stimulate their own self-awareness. 

2. Psychotherapy

Psychotherapy is delivered by a psychologist and is aimed at resolving emotional difficulties, promoting self-awareness and addressing internal conflicts.

This treatment is fundamental and is recommended even when medication has already been started. Psychotherapy can help to reorganize thoughts and brain processes as well as promote feelings and sensations of happiness. Some techniques used include cognitive behavioral therapy and mindfulness. 

3. Electroconvulsive therapy

Electroconvulsive therapy consists of a series of electric shocks delivered to the pain. These shocks are controlled and painless, and help to reorganize cerebral activity. This type of treatment is used in cases of severe depression that have shown little to no response to other treatments. 

4. New therapies 

There are more recent therapies that have shown great results for the treatment depression. These new therapies are especially beneficial in those who have had less success with other treatments. Some example include transcranial magnetic stimulation, vagal nerve stimulation and deep brain stimulation.

These are methods that stimulate and reorganize brain activity through the use of small, implanted electrodes. These electrodes are also used in the treatment of other neurological conditions, like epilepsy and Parkinson’s. 

5. Alternative therapies

There are some, more natural treatments that can be used as a complement to medical therapy.  They should not be used to substitute the treatment prescribed by a health care professional. Some examples include: 

  • Acupuncture: It can alleviate symptoms associated with depression, like pain, anxiety and insomnia 
  • Medication: It provides self-awareness and emotional regulation, which can boost confidence and self-worth
  • Physical activity: Engaging in regular physical activity helps to release hormones like serotonin and endorphins, which are essential for the treatment of depression as well as your own well-being. Group training, like a sport, can also be beneficial, as it promotes social interaction.
  • Reiki: This technique promotes relaxation and well-being, which patients with depression can benefit from. 
  • Antidepressant diet: Some foods, like banana, peanuts, oats and milk, and increase levels of tryptophan and other substances, like magnesium, which stimulate the production of hormones that can positively affect mood. 

In addition, patients are encouraged to engage in hobbies like music, reading and group activities. These can help to boost self-worth and self-confidence, which are important for the treatment of depression. 

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How long does depression treatment last? 

There is no pre-defined time for depression treatment. Some people improve within a few months, while others require years-long treatment. Treatment duration usually depends on the underlying cause of depression and the severity. The patient must also be willing to comply with treatment and engage in therapy. 

Considerations during treatment 

There are some ways to optimize your treatment, which may lead to a quicker treatment time. These include:

  • Switching medications if there is no improvement within 6 weeks: This is the amount of time necessary for any medication to take effect. If no improvement is noted, the psychiatrist may assess the need to increase dosing or switch medications. 
  • Psychiatric reassessments: It is important to have follow-up consults at predetermined time periods, every 3 to 6 months for example, to reassess symptoms and evaluate the need for medication changes. 
  • Seeking help: It is hard to combat depression alone, therefore it is important to speak to a friend, family member, psychologist or other health care professional if you are not feeling well or if symptoms worsen. 
  • Highlighting goals: Having a specific objective or goal to reach, like starting a project, a new job or a new activity, can help give worth and meaning to life
  • Avoid unhealthy habits, like alcohol, smoking, stress, excessive time on social media and not sleeping properly. 

You are also encouraged to expose yourself to the sun at least 15 minutes per day, to avoid negative thoughts, to keep yourself in bright and open spaces, listen to music and to watch movies. These can all contribute to successful depression treatment.