Medically reviewed by Kristin Hall, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
Last updated 12/11/2020
Major depressive disorder, or depression, is one of the most common mental illnesses, affecting an estimated 17.3 million American adults every year.
Depression is a debilitating illness that can affect almost every aspect of your life, from how you feel to your ability to maintain relationships, stay healthy and function at work and at home.
Luckily, depression is a treatable illness. From psychotherapy to medications, there are several scientifically proven treatments available that can help you to manage symptoms and overcome depression.
Below, we’ve explained what you can do if you’re depressed and need to seek help. We’ve also covered the treatments that may help you manage your types of depression and make progress towards recovery, from medication to therapy, lifestyle changes and more.
No one chose to have depression. If you believe that you’re suffering from depression, it’s important that you seek out professional help.
Depression is treatable. Unfortunately, due to a lack of awareness, stigma and other factors, a large percentage of people who suffer from depression and other mental illnesses fail to seek out professional medical help.
When left untreated, the symptoms of depression can worsen and affect almost every aspect of your life and wellbeing.
It’s normal to feel sad from time to time. However, people with depression often have persistent feelings of sadness and low mood that can last for weeks or months at a time.
Other symptoms of depression include:
Fatigue and reduced levels of energy
Difficulty sleeping, or difficulty waking up in the morning
Feelings of restlessness, irritability and a loss of pleasure in many activities
Headaches, muscle and joint aches, cramps and other types of physical pain
Digestive problems, typically without a clear cause
Feelings of guilt, helplessness and/or worthlessness
Persistent pessimistic, hopeless feelings and thoughts
Changes to your appetite and weight
Suicidal thoughts or persistent thoughts of death
Depression can affect everyone slightly differently, meaning you may not experience all of the symptoms listed above. However, if you have experienced several depression symptoms that have lasted for two weeks or longer, you may have depression and should seek help.
There are several ways that you can seek help if you’re depressed. Your options include:
Get help online. You can talk to a licensed mental health professional and receive depression treatment online. If appropriate, you may be prescribed medication to help you manage your symptoms and treat your depression.
Talk to your primary care provider. If you have a regular healthcare provider, reach out to them and ask for help. They can listen to your symptoms, make a medical diagnosis and develop a treatment plan for you, which may include prescription medications, counseling and/or psychotherapy.
Find a mental health professional locally. If you’d like to meet with a mental health professional in person, you can search for psychiatrists in your area and schedule an appointment. A depression treatment center can also be called a rehab for depression.
If you need help, ask a trusted friend or family member. Reaching out for help isn’t always easy. If you need assistance, consider asking a loved one, close friend or family member to help you get the treatment and assistance you need. You can read our guide on how to tell someone you're depressed if you need more advice.
If you’re depressed and are experiencing suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline via the 24/7 toll-free number 1-800-273-8255, or call 911 for emergency assistance from your local emergency services.
Is there a cure for depression? You may ask. Depression is almost always treatable. Today, a variety of treatments are available for major depressive disorder (MDD), the most common of which are psychotherapy and medication.
According to data from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 44 percent of people with depression undergo treatment using a combination of medication and psychotherapy. Fifteen percent only use therapy, while six percent use medication alone.
If you’ve been diagnosed with depression, your healthcare provider may prescribe medication to help you manage your symptoms and make progress towards recovery.
Medications for treating depression are referred to as antidepressants. Antidepressants are very common medications, with tens of millions of users in the United States alone.
Most antidepressants work by changing the levels of certain chemicals called neurotransmitters in your brain and body. These chemicals help to control your mood, feelings, behavior and other factors that can contribute to depression.
There are several different types of antidepressants available. Today, the most common type of medications used to treat depression are referred to as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs.
Common SSRIs include Prozac® (fluoxetine), Zoloft® (sertraline), Lexapro® (escitalopram) and Paxil® (paroxetine).
Other types of antidepressants include serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors, or SNRIs, as well as atypical antidepressants, tricyclic antidepressants, monoamine oxidase inhibitors and others.
Antidepressants are effective, but they can take time to start working. It may take several weeks before you notice improvements, and six weeks or longer before some antidepressants become fully effective.
Treatment for depression often involves psychotherapy, or talk therapy. In psychotherapy, you’ll discuss your symptoms, triggers and other problems with a licensed mental health professional and work together to help you manage and recover from your depression.
Several different types of psychotherapy are used to treat depression. One method that’s highly effective is cognitive behavioral Therapy, or CBT, which involves identifying and modifying the thoughts and behavioral patterns that can contribute to and worsen depression. Benefits are usually seen in 12 to 16 weeks depending upon the person.
Other types of psychotherapy include exposure therapy, acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), interpersonal therapy (IPT) and dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT).
There’s no ideal type of psychotherapy for everyone. During psychotherapy, your therapist or psychiatrist will take your needs, symptoms, the severity of your depression and other factors into account and tailor your treatment to help you make as much progress as possible.
Depending on the severity of your depression and other factors, your healthcare provider may recommend psychotherapy on its own or in combination with antidepressants.
For most people, lifestyle changes aren’t enough to fully treat depression. However, making certain changes to your habits and daily life may help you to manage your symptoms and, in combination with psychotherapy and medication, make real, noticeable progress.
Positive lifestyle changes can include avoiding alcohol and illicit drugs, exercising more and improving your diet. Other small things, such as making sure you get enough sleep, can also help you stay focused as you treat and manage your depression.
If you’re feeling depressed, it’s important to seek help. Depression can be a severe, debilitating mental illness that affects everything from your mood to your ability to function. However, most cases of depression are treatable and over the long term, recovery is often possible.
To receive help, you can connect with a licensed psychiatry provider online, get in touch with a psychiatrist in your city or talk to your primary care provider. For extra support, try reaching out to a family member or friend who can help you contact and seek help from a professional.