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Treatment for depression can involve a combination of:

  • self-help
  • talking therapies
  • medicines

Treatment will depend on the type and severity of depression you have.

Mild depression

The following treatments are available for mild depression.


Exercise can help depression and it's one of the main treatments for mild depression.

Related topics

Exercise and mental health

Self-help groups

Talking through your feelings can be helpful. You could talk to a friend or relative, or you can ask your GP to suggest a local self-help group.

Your GP may also recommend self-help books and online cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).

CBT helps you manage problems by thinking more positively. It frees you from unhelpful patterns of behaviour.

It may improve

If you're diagnosed with mild depression, it may improve over time. Your GP will usually check up on you in two weeks. You can follow up if this does not happen.

Mild to moderate depression

Your GP may refer you to talking therapy for mild or moderate depression.

There are different types of talking therapy for mild to moderate depression. For example, CBT and counselling.

Your GP can refer you or you can self-refer to your own psychological therapy.

Moderate to severe depression

The following treatments are for moderate to severe depression.


Antidepressants are tablets that treat the symptoms of depression. There are almost 30 different types of antidepressant. Your doctor will prescribe these.

Combination therapy

Your GP may recommend that you take a course of antidepressants plus talking therapy. For moderate to severe depression, an antidepressant and CBT usually works better than one treatment.

Mental health teams

You may be referred to a mental health team. They could include psychologists, psychiatrists, specialist nurses and occupational therapists. These teams often provide intensive specialist talking treatments as well as prescribed medication.

Talking treatments

Your doctor may refer you to talking therapy for moderate to severe depression.

Related topics

Talking therapy


Antidepressants are medicines that treat the symptoms of depression. There are almost 30 different types available. You may respond to one antidepressant but not to another. You may need to try two or more treatments before you find one that works for you.

Related topics


Other treatments


Mindfulness involves paying close attention to the present moment. You focus on your thoughts, feelings, sensations and the world around you.

The aim is to develop a better understanding of your mind and body. You try to learn how to live with more appreciation and less anxiety.

It is recommended for preventing depression, if you have had 3 or more bouts of depression.

Related topics


Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT)

Brain stimulation can be used to treat severe depression. It is used when the depression has not responded to other treatments.

There are a number of types of brain stimulation. Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is the most common.

During ECT an electric current passes to the brain through electrodes placed on the head.

ECT is always carried out under a general anaesthetic in a hospital by a specialist doctor.


Lithium can be used with antidepressants and for reducing suicidal behaviour. It can also be used as a mood stabiliser and prevention or intervention with mania in bipolar.

Content supplied by the NHS and adapted for Ireland by the HSE.

page last reviewed: 23/09/2018
next review due: 23/09/2021

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