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Mental health services: Depression

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Depression treatment

Depression medication

Important

Take any medicine as directed by your health care provider.

Please be patient. It may take a few weeks before you feel better.

How depression medication works -  Messages from the brain go to nerves through neurotransmitters (chemical that sends the message to the next nerve). Your brain releases fewer neurotransmitters than usual. This causes the next nerve to send the messages slower. With depression medication, a barrier is formed to keep the nerve messenger from going back into the nerve. More nerve messengers are sent out at normal speed.

Anti-depressants to treat depression

Chemical messengers (neurotransmitters) in your brain carry messages (nerve impulses) from one nerve to another. Three such messengers are serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine. They are responsible for your moods (how you feel).

During depression, your brain releases fewer neurotransmitters than usual. This affects how messages get carried to certain areas of the brain.

Medicines that treat depression increase the availability of neurotransmitters to transmit messages between neurons. Medicines do not "add" anything to your brain chemistry. They allow normal brain chemistry to "work" as it should.

There are many different types of antidepressant medicines, each of which affect the messengers differently:

  • selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (known as SSRI) target serotonin and keeps the nerves from reabsorbing it; Prozac®, Lexapro®, Celexa®, Zoloft®, and Paxil® are included.
  • other anti-depressants (there are several other medicines that target neurotransmitters: selective norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors; SNRIs; Wellbutrin® and Effexor® are included)
  • tricyclic antidepressants (prevent the nerves from reabsorbing the neurotransmitters)
  • monoamine oxidase (MAO) inhibitors (allow more neurotransmitters).

Mood stabilizers to treat bipolar disorder

Medicines to treat bipolar disorders work by changing the way nerves receive the neuro-transmitters. The nerve that receives the message is less excitable. It passes the message on at a normal rate of speed.

There are different types of mood stabilizers including lithium and anticonvulsants.


Drug guides

For information about prescription and over-the-counter drugs or alternative medicines, try one of our drug tools. They include a drug interaction tool that allows you to check for harmful effects of taking two or more drugs at the same time.

Pharmacies

Allina Health Pharmacy fills prescriptions at locations in the Twin Cities and surrounding communities. You can have your depression medication mailed to you at no extra charge.


Source: Allina Health's Patient Education Department, Depression Workbook, mh-ahc-94394
Reviewed by: Allina Health's Patient Education Department
First Published: 01/01/2011
Last Reviewed: 01/01/2011

Counseling or psychotherapy

Your health care provider may refer you to a mental health provider who does counseling. Talking about your feelings can get you out of that "rut" that results from having negative thoughts.

Counseling will also help you identify and change situations that add to your depression. This may be an unhappy relationship, parenting troubles, personal loss or other problems.

A mental health provider will help you develop attitudes and skills that are important to your recovery. Together, with your counselor, you can decide what behavior and lifestyle changes would make you feel better.

Depression self-care tips

  • Participate in an event or activity you once enjoyed.
  • Do mild exercise. It can help relieve stress, improve your self-esteem and provide an overall feeling of well-being.
  • Set realistic goals for yourself.
  • Break up large tasks into smaller ones. Set priorities and do what you can when you are able.
  • Try to spend time with other people. Talk with a trusted friend or relative. Try not to be alone. Let others help you.
  • Expect your mood to improve slowly. You will not suddenly "snap out" of your depression. Your sleep and appetite will start to improve first.
  • Avoid making important decisions, such as getting married, getting divorced or changing jobs, until you feel better. Positive thinking will replace negative thoughts as your depression responds to treatment.
  • Keep a journal of your progress. Make notes about how you are feeling.
  • Think about joining a support group for depression.
  • Be careful about using alcohol and other substances. They can make your depression worse. Depression may lead you to drink more coffee, smoke more or take other drugs that will make you feel worse.
  • Good nutrition is essential for a healthy body and mind. Eating well-balanced meals will help you feel your best. Limit foods high in sugar and empty calories (such as sweets and sodas).
  • Be patient. Your health-oriented efforts will help you feel better after a little time.
  • Identify those things that "trigger" depressed thoughts and feelings.
  • Notice how family problems, losses or other upsetting events may add to your depression. Find ways to cope with these situations. A counselor can help you.
  • Your faith and spiritual beliefs can be of great support and help you maintain hope for improvement.

Source: Allina Health's Patient Education Department, Depression Workbook, mh-ahc-94394
Reviewed by: Allina Health's Patient Education Department
First Published: 01/01/2011
Last Reviewed: 01/01/2011

Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT)

Electroconvulsive therapy (known as ECT) is a treatment to help the brain regulate mood. The patient is given a general anesthesia to sleep during the treatment. The psychiatrist gives a brief electrical stimulation to the patient's brain.

ECT has been shown to help more than 70 percent of patients who use it as part of their therapy.

ECT may be right for you if medicine or psychotherapy do not work, if they are too slow to relieve your symptoms, or if you previously had successful response to ECT treatments.

ECT treatments may be given if you are staying in the hospital (inpatient) or coming from home (outpatient).


Source: Allina Health's Patient Education Department, Depression Workbook, mh-ahc-94394 (1/11)
Reviewed by: Allina Health's Patient Education Department
First Published: 01/01/2011
Last Reviewed: 01/01/2011