Doctors at NIMH are dedicated to mental health research, including clinical trials of possible new treatments as well as studies to understand the causes and effects of depression. The studies take place at the NIH Clinical Center in Bethesda, Maryland and require regular visits. After the initial phone interview, you will come to an appointment at the clinic and meet with one of our clinicians. Find NIMH studies currently recruiting participants with depression by visiting Join a Research Study: Depression.
Over the years, the technique of ECT has improved from the procedure that still invokes stigma in the minds of many. Physicians administer the treatment in the hospital under anesthesia so that people receiving ECT do not hurt themselves or feel emotional or physical pain during the induced seizures or at any other time. Most patients undergo six to 10 treatments. A health care professional passes an electrical current through the brain to cause a controlled seizure, which typically lasts for 20-90 seconds. The patient is awake in five to 10 minutes. The most common side effect is short-term memory loss, which usually resolves quickly. Doctors safely perform ECT as an outpatient procedure.

Self-help approaches to treating depression are best thought of as adjuncts or additions to professionally prescribed treatments. Don't delay treating your depression professionally, or attempt to treat your depression solely on your own. Instead, seek a professional diagnosis at the earliest opportunity. Early diagnosis of depression is critical. The sooner your depression has been properly diagnosed and treated, the sooner you will have a good chance of recovering. Many people think that their low mood is temporary and will resolve by itself. While some depressions are temporary and relatively mild conditions, others really aren't. Delaying treatment in such cases allows symptoms to worsen and can cause serious problems to occur such as severely impaired health and occupational functioning, damage to your interpersonal relationships, and suicidal thoughts and behavior. A small but significant minority of people die from depression-caused suicides each year.


Medical problems. Dealing with a serious health problem, such as stroke, heart attack, or cancer, can lead to depression. Research shows that people who have a serious illness and depression are more likely to have more serious types of both conditions.4 Some medical illnesses, like Parkinson’s disease, hypothyroidism, and stroke, can cause changes in the brain that can trigger depression.
Regardless of ethnicity, men appear to be particularly sensitive to the depressive effects of unemployment, divorce, low socioeconomic status, and having few good ways to cope with stress. Women who have been the victim of physical, emotional, or sexual abuse, either as a child or perpetrated by a romantic partner are vulnerable to developing a depressive disorder, as well. Men who engage in sex with other men seem to be particularly vulnerable to depression when they have no domestic partner, do not identify themselves as homosexual, or have been the victim of multiple episodes of antigay violence. However, it seems that men and women have similar risk factors for depression for the most part.
Social abuse, such as bullying, are defined as actions of singling out and causing harm on vulnerable individuals. In order to capture a day-to-day observation of the relationship between the damaging effects of social abuse, the victim’s mental health and depressive mood, a study was conducted on whether individuals would have a higher level of depressed mood when exposed to daily acts of negative behavior. The result concluded that being exposed daily to abusive behaviors such as bullying has a positive relationship to depressed mood on the same day.
It is important to communicate regularly with your doctor when you are taking an antidepressant, especially if you are prescribed any other medications. Keep track of your symptoms so that they can find the best medication for your depression, and also keep track of any side effects you experience. If you’re having trouble finding a medication that works, drug-genetic testing can help your doctor determine appropriate options. If you become pregnant or are breastfeeding, be sure to ask what medication is safest.

High-functioning anxiety and depression is treated the same way as other anxiety and depressive disorders, through psychotherapy and medication. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) combined with antidepressants or antianxiety medications can be very effective and shows improved outcomes over treatment that employs only therapy or medication. Residential treatment can also be beneficial for people living with high-functioning anxiety and depression. Residential treatment allows for individuals to get care in a home-like setting, but in a controlled environment away from home, possible triggers, and the rigors of daily life.
As the name implies, antidepressants are used for the treatment of depression. It is now clear that in addition to improving one’s mood, antidepressants also have an anti-anxiety effect. Antidepressants are believed to affect certain (chemical messengers) in the brain, resulting ​in a better mood and less anxiety. Today, antidepressants are the usual choice of medication intervention for major depressive disorders and anxiety disorders.
Appropriate treatment for depression starts with a physical examination by a physician. Certain medications, as well as some medical conditions such as viral infections or a thyroid disorder, can cause the same symptoms as depression and should be ruled out. The doctor should ask about alcohol and drug use, and whether the patient has thoughts about death or suicide.
This class of drugs is frequently used for short-term management of anxiety and as an add on treatment, in treatment resistant anxiety disorders.They are not recommended as a treatment for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Benzodiazepines (alprazolam, clonazepam, diazepam, and lorazepam) are highly effective in promoting relaxation and reducing muscular tension and other physical symptoms of anxiety. Long-term use may require increased doses to achieve the same effect, which may lead to problems related to tolerance and dependence.
Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) are the earliest developed antidepressants. Examples of MAOIs include phenelzine (Nardil) and tranylcypromine (Parnate). MAOIs elevate the levels of neurochemicals in the brain synapses by inhibiting monoamine oxidase. Monoamine oxidase is the main enzyme that breaks down neurochemicals, such as norepinephrine. When monoamine oxidase is inhibited, the norepinephrine is not broken down and, therefore, the amount of norepinephrine in the brain is increased.

Towards the end of the treatment, the dose is gradually reduced over the course of several weeks. You may experience temporary sleep problems, nausea or restlessness while coming off the medication. These problems are especially common if you stop taking antidepressants suddenly. Sometimes people stop taking their medication as soon as they start feeling better. But doing so increases the likelihood of the depression returning. Unlike many sleeping pills and sedatives, though, antidepressants do not cause physical dependence.
McLean Hospital offers comprehensive mental health services to help children and adults living with mood disorders such as depression and anxiety. We utilize evidence-based treatment and therapy models informed by cutting-edge research conducted at McLean and around the world. By incorporating various approaches, treatment can be customized for each individual to help ensure recovery.
"Even more than the depression, it was my anxiety and agitation that became the defining symptoms of my illness. Like epileptic seizures, a series of frenzied anxiety attacks would descend upon me without warning. My body was possessed by a chaotic, demonic force which led to my shaking, pacing and violently hitting myself across the chest or in the head. This self-flagellation seemed to provide a physical outlet for my invisible torment, as if I were letting steam out of a pressure cooker." ~ Douglas Bloch, M.A., author of "Healing From Depression"
Depressive disorders can make those afflicted feel exhausted, worthless, helpless, and hopeless. Such negative thoughts and feelings make some people feel like giving up. It is important to realize that these negative views are part of the depressive illness and typically do not accurately reflect the actual situation. Negative thinking fades as treatment begins to take effect. In the meantime, the following are helpful tips for how to fight depression:

The serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor, or SNRI, class (venlafaxine and duloxetine) is notable for a dual mechanism of action: increasing the levels of the neurotransmitters serotonin and norepinephrine by inhibiting their reabsorption into cells in the brain. As with other medications, side effects may occur, including stomach upset, insomnia, headache, sexual dysfunction, weight gain and minor increase in blood pressure. These medications are considered as effective as SSRIs, so they are also considered a first-line treatment for the treatment of anxiety disorders, but not for obsessive compulsive disorder ,where SSRI’s are the preferred first line treatment.

For some people, the reduced daylight hours of winter lead to a form of depression known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD). SAD affects about 1% to 2% of the population, particularly women and young people. SAD can make you feel like a completely different person to who you are in the summer: hopeless, sad, tense, or stressed, with no interest in friends or activities you normally love. SAD usually begins in fall or winter when the days become shorter and remains until the brighter days of spring.
Beware of drug interactions. You should avoid drinking alcohol when taking SSRIs since it can lessen the effects of the medication. Dangerous drug interactions can occur when SSRIs are taken with antihistamines, found in many over-the-counter cold and allergy medicines and sleep aids, or with prescription painkillers. Always talk to your doctor or pharmacist before combining medications.
Seasonal affective disorder is characterized by the onset of depression during the winter months, when there is less natural sunlight. This depression generally lifts during spring and summer. Winter depression, typically accompanied by social withdrawal, increased sleep, and weight gain, predictably returns every year in seasonal affective disorder.
×