Know your treatment options

There are a number of treatment options available to patients diagnosed with depression, bipolar disorder, or related illnesses. The main treatments can be divided into three categories: Psychotherapy, Medication, and Neuromodulation. Additional treatment strategies, including exercise, nutrition, stress management, and healthy sleep habits are described in the Take Care of Yourself section of this website.

Psychotherapy relies upon the interchange between an individual or group and a trained counselor to help bring about positive changes in thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Psychotherapy can take many forms: a therapist can work one-on-one with one individual, with a couple or family, or with a group of people who share common characteristics or challenges. The goal of psychotherapy is to help individuals address the issues that contribute to their depression, including resolving conflicts, improving family and work relationships, recovering from trauma or loss, and learning how to deal with recurrent stresses.

Medication (pharmacotherapy)

In recent years, more and better medications have been developed to treat depression and bipolar disorder. When administered properly, medications can help many people find relief from the symptoms of depression, with manageable side effects. In cases of moderate and severe depression, medications are often essential and even life-saving. Different classes of antidepressant medications are available to help minimize the severity of symptoms, and “mood-stabilizing” medications are available to reduce the frequency of episodes of depression or mania. To achieve the desired outcome from medications, an adequate dosage over a sufficient period of time is required.

Neuromodulation administers electrical or magnetic currents to stimulate the brain and alter (or “modulate”) brain activity. There are a variety of neuromodulation methods currently in use to treat a range of brain illnesses, including depression, Parkinson’s disease, and tics. Neuromodulation techniques have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration for patients who have not found relief with other treatment approaches (a condition known as treatment-resistant depression, or TRD).

Depression can be a complicated illness to diagnose, treat, and manage. Working with an experienced healthcare provider, you can determine which treatment option or combination of options will best help you manage your illness. For example, for most people, combining medication with psychotherapy is the most effective approach, if that can be arranged. Over time, individuals and their healthcare providers may need to try more than one treatment strategy before arriving at a successful plan. Even treatment programs that show results initially may need to be revised over time. That’s why it’s important that you understand all of the options available to you, and that you actively participate in developing, maintaining, and monitoring your treatment plan.

In addition to whatever course of treatment may be indicated for you, the self-care steps you take are equally important components of your plan. From good nutrition to healthy sleep habits to managing stress, there is much you can do to ensure you get the maximum benefit from your total treatment plan. Visit Take care of yourself to develop your own individual self-care plan.