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​Depression Treatments

Self-Management   |   Cognitive Behavioural Therapy    Medication   |   Light Therapy


For people with mild depression, or when ones moderate or severe depression begins improving with other treatments, there are several  things one can do on your own to help keep you feeling better.

These include:

  • Regular exercise
  • Eating well
  • Mindfulness
  • Managing stress
  • Spending time with friends and family
  • Spirituality
  • Monitoring your use of alcohol and other drugs can help keep depression from getting worse or coming back.
  • Talking to your doctor, asking questions, and feeling in charge of your own health are also very important. Always talk to your doctor about what you're doing on your own.  ~ Here to Help BC 


Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy (CBT)  

With depression, a kind of thinking that people sometimes get caught in is catastrophizing [link here to CIRPD catastrophizing page].  Some studies have shown that reframing or thinking differently can reduce catastrophizing.  One strategy for changing this tendency to catastrophize is called cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT).

Cognitive behavioural therapy is based on two ideas:

  1. depressed people tend to have an ongoing negative bias in their thinking.
  2. depressed people interpret events in a way that maintains the depression.

Individual counselling with psychologists or counsellors trained in cognitive-behavioural therapy may prove helpful. 

It also may be helpful to learn more about the kinds of thought-altering that you can work on yourself, with self-management resources.



The Science Behind Depression

Current  research  has found that people with depression have an imbalance of naturally occurring chemicals, known as neurotransmitters, found throughout the brain and the body. Neurotransmitters help transport messages between nerve cells. Serotonin and norepinephrine are two examples of these neurotransmitters. In the brain, serotonin and norepinephrine are associated with mood as well as regulating and reducing feelings of pain that come from the body. Dopamine is another neurotransmitter that is associated with appetite, loss of pleasure and energy or drive.

Many medications are designed to increase the levels of neurotransmitters that affect mood. There are many different types of medication, each designed to act somewhat differently in the brain. Some of the most common older classes of antidepressants are Tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs) and Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors (MAOIs). Newer classes of antidepressants include Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs), Serotonin Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRIs) and Norepinephrine Dopamine Reuptake Inhibitors (NNRIs). Studies have shown that up to 2/3 of patients will not experience full remission with their  first use of antidepressant. So, finding the right medication requires ongoing consultation with your physician and pharmacist, with the support of family and friends. ~


Medication is not necessarily needed for certain types of mild depression, In some case Cognitive Behavioural Therapy has been found to be more effective than medication while in other cases a combination of CBT and medication is more effective than a single approach.

Light Therapy   

Light therapy can be a very successful treatment for people who experience Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). People with SAD experience a type of depression that occurs at a certain time each year, usually in the fall or winter

In light therapy, patients typically sit in front of a light box every morning for 30 minutes or more, depending on the doctor's recommendation. The box shines light much brighter than ordinary indoor lighting.

Studies have shown that light therapy relieves SAD symptoms for as much as 70% of patients after a few weeks of treatment. Some improvement can be detected even sooner. 

Although it's possible to do light therapy on your own, it's best to discuss it with your doctor or mental health provider, who may work with you to come up with a plan for duration, timing and intensity of the light therapy treatments.  Light therapy boxes can be purchased many places such as drugstores and internet retailers.



Reviewed by Marc White PhD, Scientific & Executive Director, CIRPD (See Review Criteria)

Last Modified: 1/29/2016 2:45 PM