Therapeutic Response to Depression

Instructor: Emily Cummins
In this lesson, we'll talk about treatments for depression, a mental health conditioned characterized by feelings of sadness and hopelessness. We'll talk about different types of therapies and medications available to treat depression.


Depression is a mental disorder characterized by feelings of sadness or hopelessness and loss of interest in activities that used to bring us joy. It's important to note that this is different from 'the blues' we all might feel from time to time. Depression makes it difficult for us to go to work or school, it can harm personal relationships, and in serious cases depression makes it difficult get out of bed or eat meals.

The severity of symptoms of depression vary according to the type a person is diagnosed with. Major depressive disorder means one feels depressed most of the time. Persistent depressive disorder means feeling sad or down for more than two years. Bipolar disorder is characterized by major swings in mood, where patients go from feeling extremely happy to extremely low.

The good news is there are treatments available for depression that can be very effective interventions. Let's talk about some of those now.


Medication is a very effective treatment for depression, and today there are many different kinds of medication available. The use of medication to treat depression is known as pharmacological therapy.

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) refer to a group of drugs that are very common for treating depression. Generally, these have fewer side effects than many other types of medication (we'll get to those in a minute). SSRIs work by preventing the nerve that sends out serotonin from taking serotonin back up(see where the name comes from?), which influences our mood. Scientists are not exactly sure how blocking serotonin improves depression, but these medications have been shown to work quite well for many people.

Tricylic antidepressants were some of the first medications developed to treat depressions. Today, they are generally only used when other approaches have not worked to treat depression. These medications have many more side effects than SSRIs and can cause serious interactions with other medications and even some foods.

Alternative Treatments

Medication is generally quite effective at treating depression for many of us, but it is often used in conjunction with other treatments, such as different therapies. Psychotherapy is a common approach to treating depression. Let's talk about a few different psychotherapy approaches.

First, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is the most common approach to treating depression. In this model, therapists attempt to help patients change their negative thought patterns. It is believed that people with depression suffer from patterns of negative thinking and generally have a very bleak view of themselves, the world, and the future. Basically, CBT is all about changing thinking patterns that are maladaptive. CBT is what we call time-limited, meaning that it involves a set number of treatment sessions.

Interpersonal therapy (IT) can be used to treat major depressive disorder. It is also time limited, and it focuses on interpersonal relationships and the difficulties that patients may be experiencing in this area. So, for example, a therapist will help a patient understand conflict within interpersonal relationships as it is related to the patient's diagnosis of depression.

Problem solving therapy (PST) focuses on helping an individual develop better problem-solving skills. The goal here is that by helping a patient improve his or her ability to solve problems and develop coping skills, overall quality of life will be improved.

Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is a very effective treatment for people with serious depression but, like with tricyclic anti-depressants, it is generally reserved for cases of depression that have not responded to other treatments. Here's how ECT works: a doctor uses electrical stimulation in the brain to include a seizure in the patient. Sounds a little scary! But ECT is carefully administered and it's used in cases where a patient might be suicidal or psychotic. In these instances, a patient's life could be in danger waiting for other treatments to work. ECT is extremely quick. However, the effects don't last and generally additional treatments are needed.

Lesson Summary

_Depression is a serious mental health condition characterized by lasting feelings of sadness and hopelessness. Depression interferes with our ability to get our work done, can impact our interpersonal relationships, and cause changes in our eating and sleeping patterns.

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