Treatment for Mild to Moderate Depression

Treating depression is an art as well as a science, which can limit the value of clinical research when it comes to treating individuals. Since depression manifests itself in different ways in different people, it's crucial to get a thorough evaluation from a doctor.

You should consider treatment with a mental health professional if your primary-care doctor is unable to devote enough time to the screening and follow-up care required for the successful treatment of mental health issues. But primary-care doctors do write a large percentage of prescriptions for antidepressants annually.

Ideally, a mental health professional will ask you questions about your mood, symptoms, family history of mood disorders, and current life circumstances before arriving at a diagnosis and prescribing a course of treatment.

In older adults in particular, depression can stem from underlying medical causes, such as thyroid or heart diseases, or the side effect of a medication used for another condition. A careful evaluation can help rule out these possibilities. It can also help determine whether you are experiencing a temporary low period due to a specific stressor —like the death of a loved one or a job loss —or if this is a true depressive episode that could respond to medication.

The Bottom Line on Whether to Use Antidepressants

Despite recent research, most experts still agree that antidepressants remain an important treatment option for mild to severe depression, especially when used in combination with psychotherapy. Still, people with mild symptoms may want to try psychotherapy and/or exercise first and turn to medication if these nonmedical options offer insufficient relief.

Getting a thorough evaluation from an experienced mental health professional can help determine the best treatment strategy for you.

Publication Review By: Karen L. Swartz, M.D.

Published: 20 Aug 2013

Last Modified: 20 Aug 2013