HealthSheets™


Treating Mood Disorders

Depression and bipolar disorder (also called manic depression) are 2 common mood disorders. They are often treated with medicines and therapy. Your healthcare provider can tell you more about treatments that can help you. A hospital or mental health clinic can also provide help. Mood disorders affect both you and your family. Support and resources for family members are important in the long-term management of these illnesses.

Man talking with healthcare provider.

Treatments for depression

Depression is a common mood disorder. It causes you to feel sad, worthless, helpless, and hopeless. It makes you lose interest in things you used to enjoy. Treatment includes medicines and talk therapy. Antidepressant medicines change levels of brain chemicals to help you feel better.

Don’t stop medicines suddenly. Medicines usually need to be stopped over a period of time. This is to prevent symptoms from getting worse. It is also to prevent possibly dangerous withdrawal effects.

Talk therapy involves speaking with a trained counselor about your thoughts. Most people with depression do best when they use both medicine and talk therapy. In cases where other treatments don’t work, your healthcare provider may suggest a treatment called electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). This uses electric impulses to ease depression.

There are different types of depression. Your treatment options will depend on the type of depression you have. In some cases treatment may be short-term (6 months or less). In other cases medicines may be needed on a long-term basis.

Treatments for bipolar disorder

People with bipolar disorder have intense mood swings. They move between deep sadness and out-of-control highs. Bipolar disorder is a serious, complex, chronic illness. And just like diabetes or heart disease, it needs to be managed for the rest of your life. This condition is treated with medicines such as lithium. It helps even out moods and prevents mood swings. If lithium is not appropriate, another medicine that works in a similar way may be used instead.

Don’t stop these medicines suddenly. Medicines usually need to be stopped over a period of time. This is to prevent symptoms from getting worse. It is also to prevent possibly dangerous withdrawal effects.

Talk therapy can also help. This involves talking to a trained counselor about feelings and relationships, and managing your bipolar illness. He or she can give support during tough times.

To learn more

The sources below can tell you more. They can also give names of clinics near you that offer treatment and free screenings.

  • Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance  800-826-3632  www.dbsalliance.org

  • International Foundation for Research and Education on Depression   www.ifred.org

  • National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)   800-950-NAMI (800-950-6264) www.nami.org

  • National Institute of Mental Health  866-615-6464  www.nimh.nih.gov

  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 800-273-TALK (8255) www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org. This resource is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The counselors speak English and Spanish. They can provide immediate crisis intervention and information on local resources. It is free and confidential. 

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