Major Depressive Disorder Treatments


About 25 million men and women in the United States will experience or be diagnosed with major depressive disorder (MDD) this year.

While MDD is a disabling mental illness, costing the U.S. more than $80 billion a year in lost productivity, it is important to know that there are treatments available to help those affected by this condition.

What Is Major Depressive Disorder?

Other names for MDD include clinical depression, major depressive illness, major affective disorder or unipolar mood disorder. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI):

Depression is a serious emotional and biological disease. Major depression may require long-term treatment to keep symptoms from returning just like any other chronic medical illness. Major depression is a mood state that goes well beyond temporarily feeling sad or blue. It is a serious medical illness that affects one’s thoughts, feelings, behavior, mood and physical health. Depression is a life-long condition in which periods of wellness alternate with recurrences of illness.

How Is Major Depressive Disorder Treated?

Once you have been diagnosed with MDD, it’s important that you work with your doctor to choose a treatment plan that works for you. Treatment options may include a prescription antidepressant medication, a combination of more than one antidepressant medication and/or psychotherapy to help alleviate your symptoms.

Antidepressant medications work on chemicals in the brain called neurotransmitters. In particular, they work on the specific neurotransmitters called serotonin and norepinephrine, which have been shown through scientific research to help regulate a person’s mood. There are several different classes of antidepressant medications your doctor may choose to prescribe:

Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors

Called SSRIs for short, this class of depression medications includes Prozac (fluoxetine), Zoloft (sertraline), Lexapro (escitalopram), Paxil (paraxetine) and Celexa (citalopram). These medications work on only one of the neurotransmitters – serotonin.

Serotonin and Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors

Referred to as SNRIs, these medications include Effexor (venlafaxine) and Cymbalta (duloxetine). These medications work on both serotonin and norephinephrine.


These are older antidepressants that are extremely powerful and are not typically prescribed much today. They include imipramine and nortriptyline.

Monoamine oxidase inhibitors

Called MAOIs, these are the oldest type of medications for depression and should not be taken with SSRIs.

Source: National Institute of Mental Health


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