What Are The Most Common Treatments For Depression?

Dr. Harold Koenig answers the question: 'Common Treatments For Depression?'

ByABC News
February 27, 2008, 4:46 PM

— -- Question: What are the most common treatments for depression?

Answer: The three major kinds of treatments today for depression are, first of all, medications. Medications are very effective for treating depression.

There's a whole variety of different medicines and they have different kinds of side effects. And your doctor will know what kind of medication to prescribe based on the kinds of symptoms that you're having. There are some antidepressants that cause people to sleep at night, and so if you're having trouble sleeping then that would be the antidepressant your doctor might prescribe. Other people have trouble with their weight, or maybe they're eating too much and they're gaining too much weight -- there are antidepressants that can help people actually lose weight. And so depending on your symptoms, your doctor will prescribe an antidepressant that is tuned to your system. Now the doctor may need to try a couple of different antidepressants before he comes on to the right one.

Second is psychotherapy -- psychotherapy or counseling where you can talk about your problems, talk about the stresses in your life to someone else and they listen to you, they try to understand what you're going through, and they provide you with some tips and some advice on how to deal with whatever it is that you're going through. So psychotherapy together with medications is effective about 80 to 90 percent of the time with depression.

The last treatment is electric shock therapy. And many people are very negative about electric shock, but ECT, which is what we call electric shock therapy, is extremely effective especially for that 10 to 15 percent of people who don't respond to medications or who can't tolerate the side effects that medications have. And electric shock therapy today is much much different than it was, say 20 or 30 years ago. Many people think of Jack Nicholson on "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest," when they think of electric shock therapy -- the placing of the electrodes, and the whole body jumping up on the gurney, and that's just not the case today. Today, people are usually anesthetized, so they're completely out, they don't know what's going on, and only a part of the brain receives the electric shock. And there is a very quick recovery time, in fact a lot of times electric shock therapy is done as an outpatient -- you receive the treatment, you go home the same day or after about an hour. So it's actually a very safe procedure, has very few side effects, and is a very very effective treatment that can end depression very quickly, in fact more quickly than either medications or psychotherapy.

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