Primary care providers often start treatment for MDD by prescribing antidepressant medications, but treatment may evolve to include specialists in mental health care.

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). These antidepressants are frequently prescribed. SSRIs work by helping inhibit the breakdown of serotonin in the brain, resulting in higher amounts of this neurotransmitter. Serotonin is a brain chemical that’s believed to be responsible for mood. It may help improve mood and produce healthy sleeping patterns. People with MDD often have low levels of serotonin and may relieve symptoms of MDD by increasing the amount of available serotonin in the brain. These include Prozac and Celexa.

Other medications. Tricyclic antidepressants and medications known as atypical antidepressants may be used when other drugs haven’t helped.


Psychotherapy, also known as psychological therapy or talk therapy, can be an effective treatment for people with MDD. It involves meeting with a therapist on a regular basis to talk about your condition and related issues. Psychotherapy can help:

  • adjust to a crisis or other stressful event
  • replace negative beliefs and behaviors with positive, healthy ones
  • improve your communication skills
  • find better ways to cope with challenges and solve problems
  • increase your self-esteem
  • regain a sense of satisfaction and control in your life

Your healthcare provider may also recommend other types of therapy, such as cognitive behavioral therapy or interpersonal therapy. Another possible treatment is group therapy, which allows you to share your feelings with people who can relate to what you’re going through.

Lifestyle changes

In addition to taking medications and participating in therapy, you can help improve MDD symptoms by making some changes to your daily habits.

Eating right: Consider eating foods that contain omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon. Foods that are rich in B vitamins, such as beans and whole grains, have also been shown to help some people with MDD. Magnesium has also been linked to fighting MDD symptoms. It’s found in nuts, seeds, and yogurt.

Avoiding alcohol and certain processed foods: It’s beneficial to avoid alcohol, as it’s a nervous system depressant that can make your symptoms worse. Also, certain refined, processed, and deep-fried foods contain omega-6 fatty acids, which may contribute to MDD.

Getting plenty of exercise: Although MDD can make you feel very tired, it’s important to be physically active. Exercising, especially outdoors and in moderate sunlight, can boost your mood and make you feel better.

Sleeping well: It’s vital to get at least 6 to 8 hours of sleep per night. Talk to your doctor if you’re having trouble sleeping.

It’s important to remember that treatment-resistant depression does occur, in which case you’ll work with a doctor to determine what other options may work for you, such as higher doses of antidepressants and a combination of medication may also be used. Please talk to your doctor about any concerns you may have with your medication, or if you do not believe the medication prescribed is working after the initial adjustment period is over.

Additional Major Depressive Disorder Resources:

Depression And Bipolar Support Alliance – The DBSA fosters an environment of understanding about the impact and management of these life-threatening illnesses by providing up-to-date, scientifically based tools and information written in language the general public can understand.

National Institute of Mental Health – The mission of NIMH is to transform the understanding and treatment of mental illnesses through basic and clinical research, paving the way for prevention, recovery, and cure.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – is a national network of local crisis centers that provides free and confidential emotional support to people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

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