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What are the most successful therapies for depression? © iStock

What are the most successful therapies for depression?

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There’s no simple answer to treating depression because individual experience, and therefore success of treatments, depends on many factors.

Asked by: Serena Collins, Reading


There’s no simple answer because success depends on age, sex, the type of depression and whether it’s combined with anxiety or other mental-health problems. Generally, however, therapies based on exploring and changing the patient’s own thoughts and behaviour are far more effective than old-fashioned talking therapies such as psychoanalysis.

Alternative therapies, although popular, also fare badly. One meta-analysis combined many studies and found that cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) did best, especially with long sessions. But a newer therapy called behavioural activation also did well.

These are both based on the idea that depression is made worse by adopting the wrong coping strategies. So patients are helped to understand what triggers their depression and how their reactions to life’s events affect their moods and emotions. Learning to replace bad coping strategies, such as drugs, drink and endless rumination, with positive coping strategies can help, either used alone or in combination with medication.

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