Treating serious depression usually involves a combination of counseling and medication. The choice of whether or not to use medication or other therapies depends on the severity of your condition.

There are several mood-altering medications on the market to treat depression. Talk to your doctor about the benefits, risks and side effects of each. They include:

  • Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs): These are the most common choice for managing depression. They have relatively few side effects, and can treat moderate to severe depression. Includes Prozac, Paxil, Zoloft, Celexa and Lexapro.
  • Serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs): Includes Cymbalta, Effexor XR and Pristiq.
  • Norepinephrine and dopamine reuptake inhibitors (NDRIs): One of the few antidepressants without sexual side effects. Includes Wellbutrin and Aplenzin.
  • Tricyclic antidepressants: These may cause more side effects than more commonly prescribes antidepressants, so they’re typically used when patients don’t show improvement with other medications. Includes Tofranil and Vivactil.
  • Atypical antidepressants: These antidepressants may make you drowsy, so they’re typically taken at night. Includes Oleptro and Remeron.
  • Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs): Typically only used when patients don’t show improvement on other medications, these antidepressants have dangerous interactions with some foods and medications. Includes Parnate and Nardil.
  • Dietary supplements and herbal therapies: St. John’s wort and omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to help relieve depression.

Other Treatments for Depression

In addition to medications, some therapies can help to relieve medication. They include:

  • Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT): Formerly known as shock therapy, ECT encourages a patient to have small seizures. This therapy is usually used on patients with severe depression who have not responded well to other treatments. Results are often immediate and positive.
  • Vagal nerve stimulation: Requires surgical implantation of a stimulation device that delivers electrical impulses that affect mood centers.
  • Transcranial magnetic stimulation: Uses magnetic fields to stimulate nerves and alter brain activity and mood.