Major depressive disorder is a highly treatable condition, whether the mental illness exists by itself or with a co-occurring condition.

Major depressive disorder is a treatable mental health condition that should be taken seriously by the person with the disorder and their loved ones. Clinical depression treatment is most effective when it begins shortly after diagnosis, but it is never too late to receive medical help for a mental illness. Treatment options for major depressive disorder include psychotherapy, psychotropic medication and electroconvulsive therapy. A mental health professional may recommend a combination of psychotherapy and antidepressant medication to treat the disorder in children, adolescents and adults. Electroconvulsive therapy induces seizures and is a valid but controversial option.

Major depressive disorder treatment should be individualized based on symptom severity, co-occurring disorders and the patient’s history of mental illness. Individuals with severe cases of depression may portray self-harming behaviors or suicidal thoughts, thus necessitating inpatient hospitalization for stabilization and safety. Individuals with less severe cases may be responsive to weekly individual therapy as part of an outpatient rehab program.

Therapy Options for Major Depressive Disorder

Psychotherapy, or traditional talk therapy, is an effective treatment for major depressive disorder. Psychotherapy may not be enough on its own to treat clinical depression but one can use it in conjunction with medication or other types of therapies. Psychotherapy can assist an individual to identify the triggers for their depression in addition to learning coping mechanisms to manage symptoms.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive behavioral therapy targets an individual’s thought patterns to promote change in feelings and behaviors. Cognitive behavior therapy seeks to help a person with major depressive disorder to identify and change irrational thought patterns to reduce depressed feelings and behaviors. Cognitive behavioral therapy also assists people in understanding how their cognition and behavior can impact depression. Cognitive behavior therapy has been especially effective in the treatment of clinical depression in children and adolescents.

Interpersonal Therapy

Interpersonal therapy is a type of treatment that concentrates on how relationships with others impact depression. This specific therapy approach focuses on the individual and their relationships and assumes that personal relationships are at the core of all emotional issues. Depression can negatively affect relationships, and interpersonal therapy seeks to address strained relations by improving communication between parties. Also, interpersonal therapy seeks to confront the causes of depressive symptoms. Interpersonal therapy examines how current difficulties are contributing to depression and further complicating relationships.

Related Topic: High functioning depression treatment

Medications Used for Treating Major Depressive Disorder

Antidepressant medications are most frequently used to treat major depressive disorder. Older generations of antidepressants, including tricyclic antidepressants and monoamine oxidase inhibitors can be used as major depressive disorder medications. These medications should be used as a last resort if other medications have not proven to be effective.

A practitioner may need to experiment with different classes of medications and various dosages to find the right combination with the lowest side effect profile. Antidepressants take four to six weeks to take full effect and often sleep, attentiveness and appetite improve before mood does. If needed, other psychotropic medications can be added to antidepressant medications to enhance the effectiveness, whether it is two types of antidepressants, an antidepressant and a mood stabilizer or antidepressants and antipsychotic medications.


Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are the most type of antidepressant prescribed for major depressive disorder. Serotonin is a chemical in the brain that can affect a person’s mood. Individuals with a major depressive disorder diagnosis have inadequate levels of serotonin, possibly caused by consistent substance use and a reliance on these substances to produce the chemical. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors seek to increase serotonin levels in the brain by preventing the neurotransmitter’s breakdown. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors are also comparatively safe and less toxic in case of overdose compared to other antidepressant medications. Commonly prescribed selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors include:

  • Prozac
  • Zoloft
  • Paxil
  • Celexa
  • Lexapro

Treating Major Depressive Disorder and Co-Occurring Conditions

Dual diagnosis, or co-occurring disorders, refers to the presence of two different disorders. Major depressive disorder paired with another condition is common. It is important to treat an individual with a dual diagnosis for both struggles so that a mental health practitioner can address both major depressive disorder and co-occurring conditions and provide a strong foundation for recovery.

Substance abuse is a highly common co-occurring disorder to depression. Using drugs or alcohol can result in experiencing depression, or the symptoms of depression can inspire someone to use drugs and alcohol. Treating both the addiction and depression concurrently and effectively is imperative to achieving a successful recovery.

If you have depression, there are several treatment options from which to choose. A licensed mental health practitioner can assist you in selecting the treatment option that works best for you.

If you are experiencing depression along with a co-occurring disorder or an addiction to drugs or alcohol, contact The Recovery Village, to speak to someone regarding your situation. The Recovery Village can connect you with medical treatment so that you can begin your path to recovery and a healthier life.

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Editor – Devin Golden
Devin Golden has worked for various print and digital news organizations. Devin's family has been affected by addiction and mental health disorders, which is a large part of why he wants to help others who have either directly or indirectly been affected by these diseases. Read more
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Medically Reviewed By – Tracy Smith, LPC, NCC, ACS
Tracy Smith is a Licensed Professional Counselor, a Nationally Certified Counselor, an Approved Clinical Supervisor, and a mental health freelance and ghostwriter. Read more
Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.