What treatment options are available?
It is important to treat depression because it can have a harmful effect on your ability to function in day-to-day life.
Depression can also make pain worse, make sleep difficult, lower your energy, take away your enjoyment and make it difficult for you to take good care of yourself.
Depression can almost always be treated with counseling (psychotherapy) and/or antidepressant medications. A combination of both counseling and antidepressant medication has been shown to be most effective in treating depression.
There are also some things you can do on your own to help improve your mood such as:
Regular exercise or physical activity - Even gentle stretching or going on short walks has been shown to help with depression. See our factsheet on Exercise.
Eating a balanced diet.
Getting enough sleep. See our factsheet on Sleep.
Doing activities that you enjoy or have enjoyed in the past.
Social activities can be helpful.
Scheduling these activities can help you follow-through.
Meditation or mindfulness-based practice is effective for some people.
Being outside and exposed to natural light can also make a difference.
There are many kinds of therapy, but cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a type of psychotherapy that has been proven to work for depression.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy examines the relationships between your thoughts, feelings and behaviors. Cognitive-behavior therapists focus on your current situation and finding solutions. For example, your therapist may:
Help you return to activities that are meaningful or enjoyable to you.
Support you and help you problem-solve to overcome barriers.
Help you recognize how your thoughts are more negative when you are depressed and how you can adjust your thinking to improve your ability to cope with stress and increase your confidence.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy can take place one-on-one with a therapist or in a group setting.
A variety of antidepressant medications are used to treat depression. Antidepressant medication works by restoring balance to chemicals in your brain that are important to mood, such as the chemical serotonin. Typically, medications take several weeks to be fully effective.
It is important to find the medication that works best for you since everyone is different. If one medication does not work, let your health care provider know and he or she may change your medication.
Some people have concerns about taking antidepressants. Antidepressants are not addictive, but there may be some side effects. It is important to discuss your concerns with your health care provider.
How do I find treatment?
Finding a counselor, therapist, or psychologist - Many mental health professionals are qualified to treat depression. Often, mental health care for depression is covered by health insurance, but some providers may need to be in your network to be fully covered. Check with your health insurance to see how your coverage works. It's always good to check at your first visit with a mental health professional to confirm your insurance coverage. Here's how to find a mental health professional:
Talk with your health care provider. He or she may be able to help you get treatment started or refer you to a mental health professional. Note, what you tell your health care provider is confidential.
American Psychological Association Psychologist Locator - The Psychologist Locator makes it easy for you to find practicing psychologists in your local area. 1-800-964-2000.
Psychology Today Therapy Directory - Find a therapist, psychologist, psychiatrist, or counselor.
National Alliance on Mental Illness - the nation's largest grassroots mental health organization which has local offices nation-wide or you may call 1-800-950-NAMI (6264) or email.
Your local Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) who will have listings of regional support networks in your community which are free or low cost.
Suicide Prevention - If you or someone you love is having thoughts of harming themselves, please reach out:
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline - a free, confidential 24-hour hotline available to anyone in suicidal crisis or emotional distress. Your call will be routed to the nearest crisis center to you. 1-800-274-TALK (8255).
Hopeline - a free, confidential 24-hour hotline available for anyone in a suicidal crisis or emotional distress and includes 24-hour email support and online chat support. 1-800-SUICIDE (784-2433).
Alexopoulos, G. S. (2005). Depression in the elderly. Lancet, 365(9475), 1961-1970.
Bombardier, C. H., Ehde, D. M., Stoelb, B., & Molton, I. R. (2010). The relationship of age-related factors to psychological functioning among people with disabilities. Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Clinics of North America, 21, 281-297
How to Cope with Depression was developed by Alexandra L. Terrill, PhD, and published by the University of Washington's Aging and Physical Disability Rehabilitation Research and Training Center. Content is based on research evidence and/or professional consensus.
This information is not meant to replace the advice from a medical professional. You should consult your health care provider regarding specific medical concerns or treatment.
University of Washington. (2012). How to Cope with Depression [Factsheet]. Aging and Physical Disability Rehabilitation Research and Training Center. http://agerrtc.washington.edu/