Managing Depression

PerformCare wants to help its members manage their depression.

Depression, even the most difficult cases, can be treated. The sooner that treatment can begin, the better treatment will work.

Visit a doctor

The first step is to visit a primary care provider, or doctor. A doctor will do a physical exam, talk to you and sometimes do blood work. If the doctor can find no medical reason that may be causing the depression, the next step is to complete a depression test.

The doctor may feel he or she can treat the depression by just talking with you or by ordering an antidepressant. The doctor may suggest you see a mental health professional. They will discuss with you any family history of depression or other mental disorders. They will ask for your history of your symptoms. You should talk about:

  • When your symptoms started.
  • How long they have lasted.
  • How severe they are.
  • If you have had depression before.

If you had depression before, they will ask how you were treated for the depression. The mental health professional may also ask if you are using alcohol or drugs, and if you are thinking about death or suicide.


Once diagnosed, a person with depression can be treated in several ways. The most common treatments are medication and psychotherapy.


Antidepressants work on brain chemicals called neurotransmitters. Scientists have found that certain chemicals help keep your mood even, but they are unsure exactly how they work.

Antidepressants must be taken for at least 4 weeks before they have a full effect. You should keep taking the medicine, even if you are feeling better. This stops the depression from coming back.

Only stop taking the medicine after your doctor says. The doctor might give you weaker drugs so your body has time to react to the lesser dose.

Antidepressants are not habit-forming, but they can cause withdrawal symptoms. Some people with chronic depression may need to stay on the medication most of their life.


Several types of psychotherapy, or "talk therapy", can help people with depression.

There are 2 main types of psychotherapies:

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT): CBT helps you look at your negative thinking. The therapist will help you look at issues differently. By changing your outlook, you can look at what may be the actual cause of your depression and make the right changes.
  • Interpersonal therapy (IPT): IPT helps people understand and work through troubled relationships that may be causing their depression or making it worse.

Tips to help yourself

  • See a professional as soon as possible.
  • Be active and exercise.
  • Set goals.
  • Spend time with other people who help you feel good.
  • Don't make big decisions, such as getting married or divorced or changing jobs, until you feel better.
  • Think positive.
  • Keep learning about your depression.

This material was adapted from What Is Depression? This source is in the public domain and may be reproduced or copied without permission from National Institute of Mental Health.