Women's Health Matters

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Getting professional help

There are many different places you can get help if you are depressed.

If you are feeling suicidal, go to the nearest emergency room or call 911

Talk to your doctor
Your doctor will likely ask you questions about your thoughts and feelings, how long you have been feeling that way, and what is happening in your daily life. S/he might be able to refer you to a specialist to talk to. It is also important to see your doctor in order to rule out any medical conditions that may cause similar symptoms. For example, hypothyroidism (a condition of an underactive thyroid) has many overlapping symptoms with depression, such as fatigue, difficulty concentrating and lethargy. Or, older women who suffer from ischemia (restricted blood flow due to a hardening of the blood vessels) may experience symptoms of depression. This is called vascular depression. It is important to have a checkup with your doctor to monitor your overall health and rule out any medical conditions that may cause depression.

Medications have been helpful for some people with depression. Medications will need to be prescribed by a medical doctor (usually a psychiatrist). Medications work by acting on different neurotransmitters in the brain. It is important to follow the directions for taking the medication. Most medications take up to four weeks to have any effect, and should not be stopped suddenly. Talk to your doctor about your concerns about taking medications.

Talk therapy can be very helpful for some people with depression. There are many different people who do psychotherapy. Social workers, mental health therapists, psychiatrists and psychologists are some. It is important to work with someone with whom you feel comfortable. Some therapy is short-term (10-20 sessions), whereas other types are longer-term. This depends on your struggles and your goals for therapy. Talk therapy can incorporate strategies for managing negative thoughts, mindfulness, stress management, exploring your emotions, or examining past relationships, all in the context of a supportive therapeutic relationship with a therapist.

St. John’s wort
This herbal remedy has been shown to be effective for individuals with depression. It does interact with other drugs, so you should tell your doctor if you are taking St. John’s wort.

Omega 3 fatty acids
Omega 3 fatty acids are found in foods such as fish, flaxseed and certain nuts, among other sources. Research has shown that cultures that eat more of these foods have lower rates of depression.

Light therapy
Light therapy is effective for people with seasonal affective disorder, and has been an effective additional treatment for those with non-seasonal depression who are taking medications. Light therapy requires buying a special light and sitting in front of it for a prescribed period of time. 

Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT)
ECT has been shown to be effective for certain individuals with depression. The individual is under anesthesia so they do not seize or convulse. An electrical stimulation is then given to the brain.

Transcranial magnetic stimulation
This non-invasive technique provides an electric current to certain parts of the brain. It has been shown to be effective for individuals who did not respond to medications.


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  • A publication of:
  • Women's College Hospital