Major Depressive Disorder Basics
Mild cases of depression are treatable with specialized psychotherapies alone, but experts agree that in most cases a combination of psychological and pharmacological therapies is the best approach.
Psychotherapeutic: Childhood and adolescent depression is often treated with interpersonal therapy, or IPT. In IPT, a therapist focuses on a young person’s relationships with peers and family, and how they can positively (and negatively) impact the child’s the inner life. IPT for young people with depression also encourages kids to seek out and participate in the activities they’ve lost interest in with the goal of jumpstarting recovery, a process called behavioral activation.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which seeks to treat psychiatric disorders by teaching children how their thoughts affect feelings and behaviors, is used to treat depression.
Pharmacological: Many medications have proven effective in combating depression. A course of therapy usually begins with one of the reuptake inhibitors, medications that increase the supply of certain neurotransmitters—chemicals parts of the brain use to communicate with each other—a shortage of which has been associated with depression. These drugs include selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), and norepinephrine and dopamine reuptake inhibitors (NDRIs). These medications, while still having some significant side effects, are safe if properly managed.
The FDA has decided, based on research, that all antidepressants run the risk of encouraging suicidal thoughts, and they all carry warning labels. But the phenomenon is rare and has been tied only to suicidal ideation, not actual suicide attempts.