Major depression is a highly treatable illness. Between 80 to 90% of individuals who suffer from severe depression are effectively treated and return to a normal level of functioning. Treatment of depression depends on the individual as well as the severity and duration of the illness. Basic types of treatment for depression include antidepressant medications, psychotherapy, or electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). Often these basic treatment approaches are used in combination. Antidepressants are one of the largest groups of pharmaceuticals produced in the world and the second largest produced in the United States. Currently, over two-dozen antidepressants are on the market.

Antidepressants are successful in 60-80% of patients. No single antidepressant drug has been shown to be more effective than another. Antidepressants work by correcting imbalances in neurotransmitters. Generally, antidepressants take several weeks and up to months to show efficacy and each has their own side effect profile.

Additionally, several methods of short-term, goal-oriented psychotherapy have proven successful in the treatment of depression, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and interpersonal therapy. Cognitive behavioral therapy addresses the negative thinking and behavioral patterns associated with depression, and teaches the individual to recognize and target the self-defeating behavioral patterns that contribute to their depression. In contrast, interpersonal therapy has a focus on improving disturbed or unhealthy personal relationships, which may be contributing to the individual's depression.

The final treatment approach, electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), is employed in cases of severe treatment-resistant depression. An electric current is passed through the brain to produce a seizure, thereby affecting chemical activity in all regions of the brain. It is believed that, with repeated treatments, chemical changes build upon one another to help restore the normal chemical balance in the brain and help to alleviate symptoms of depression.

For more information about ECT and other treatment approaches: