Understanding and treating depression

Get help for depression from the very best mental health experts at Priory.

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Page medically reviewed by Dr William Shanahan, Medical Director and Clinical Director of Addictions based at Priory Hospital Roehampton.

Dr. Shanahan is the Medical Director at Priory Hospital Roehampton and Clinical Director of Priory’s Addiction Services. With extensive experience in treating depression, he provides evidence-based mental health care. A graduate of Trinity College Dublin, he has a rich background in psychiatry, specialising in depression and addiction treatment.

When it comes to depression, there are a variety of treatment options available. These have been designed to address the complexities of this condition, and support people to get back on track. Treatment plans should be tailored to each person's specific needs, and a combination of approaches is likely to be the most effective.

In this guide, we’ll aim to provide you with valuable insights, evidence-based strategies, and a supportive approach to navigating depression treatment. Remember, depression is entirely treatable, even in the most severe of cases.

Depression treatment options

Talking therapies
Alternative treatments
Hospital treatment
Lifestyle changes

Talking therapies

Talking therapies play a vital role in depression treatment. One of the most common types of depression therapy is a technique known as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)​. CBT is used all over the world to treat lots of mental health conditions, including depression. It’s based on the principle that unhelpful, deep rooted thought patterns.

CBT works by identifying and changing your unhealthy thought patterns and any negative behaviours. This helps you to think in a more balanced way and challenge any negative assumptions you have.

It also helps you to learn coping mechanisms that you can use for the rest of your life. These allow you to recognise when you’re experiencing negative thoughts and respond to them in a healthy way. This reduces the likelihood of you becoming depressed again in the future. Find out more about CBT for depression.

Other therapies may also be beneficial in depression treatment, depending on your individual needs and preferences. These include:

  • Dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT)
  • Cognitive analytic therapy (CAT)
  • Mindfulness
  • Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT)
  • Interpersonal therapy (IPT)
  • Compassion focused therapy (CFT)
  • Emotion focused therapy (EFT)
  • Person-centred therapy (PCT)
  • Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) - an innovative treatment method which uses rapidly changing magnetic fields to stimulate areas of the brain that are involved in mood regulation, available at Priory Wellbeing Centre Harley Street


Alongside CBT and other forms of therapy, medication can also be useful in treating depression. This can help to complement talking therapy and also acts as a further barrier against your depression.

However, for some people, antidepressants will be the first line of treatment for depression, especially when:

  • Your depression is severe or comes and goes
  • You have responded well to antidepressants in the past
  • Talking therapies alone haven’t been successful in tackling your depression
  • There's a history of depression in your family
  • Your depression is making you feel suicidal

Antidepressant medications, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) and tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs), can help regulate brain chemicals and alleviate symptoms.

It’s crucial to work closely with a healthcare professional to find the most suitable medication for you, understand its potential side effects and make sure you’re taking this as prescribed.

Alternative treatments

Alternative treatments for depression are also worth considering. Supplements such as omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D, and herbal remedies like St John's Wort have shown some benefits when it comes to tackling mild to moderate depression.

Also, mind-body techniques such as yoga, meditation, and acupuncture can promote relaxation and emotional wellbeing, helping to reduce depression symptoms. Lastly, light therapy, specifically used for SAD, involves exposure to bright light to regulate your circadian rhythm and improve mood.

Hospital and residential treatment

In some cases, you might need residential depression treatment within a hospital. This is especially the case if your depression is severe, or accompanied by significant risk factors.

Residential mental health hospitals can provide specialist inpatient treatment for depression, offering intensive therapy, medication management, structured routines and a supportive environment. It also gives you the chance to spend some time away from any outside influences that might be making your depression worse.

Residential depression treatment is likely to be the best option for people who need a higher level of support to stabilise their condition.

Lifestyle changes

In addition to professional interventions, lifestyle changes can play a crucial role in coping with depression symptoms. A balanced diet, regular exercise, sufficient sleep, relaxation techniques, and doing things you enjoy, can significantly improve your wellbeing. These lifestyle adjustments can complement other treatment approaches and enhance the effectiveness of depression management strategies.

Remember, each person's experience with depression is unique, and treating it takes patience and collaboration. However, with the right support, it’s entirely possible for you to make a full recovery.

Treatment formats

The treatment plans put in place by professionals can vary depending on what symptoms you're experiencing and the severity of those symptoms. As a result, treatments can be delivered via:

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Common symptoms of depression

Depression symptoms can vary widely for each individual, as can the severity of those symptoms. For people suffering with depression, it’s likely that your symptoms will be affecting your day-to-day activities, work, social, and/or family life.

Below are symptoms of how you might feel if you’re struggling with depression and how your body might react to the depression.

People experience depression in widely different ways. The signs and symptoms will differ from person to person, as will the onset of each of these symptoms. This makes it difficult to suggest some 'early' signs of depression. However, there are some common signs of depression you can look out for if you, or someone you know, think they're struggling with depression.

These common signs include:

  • A lack of energy
  • Changes in appetite
  • Changes in sleep patterns
  • Difficulty concentrating or making decisions
  • Feeling low or down
  • Physical symptoms such as aches and pains

If you're experiencing any of the signs of depression mentioned above, it doesn't necessarily mean that you're clinically depressed. It's normal to experience periods of low mood, sadness and other similar emotions throughout life, and these symptoms may be a sign of these experiences rather than depression.

If you're struggling with the symptoms of depression, you may feel like nothing brings you pleasure anymore, even things that you used to enjoy, and you may find it difficult to motivate yourself to do anything. Other signs include:

  • Feelings of guilt
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Drug and alcohol abuse
  • Flat affect (reduced emotional reactivity)
  • Loss of interest in things you once enjoyed
  • Feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness
  • Lack of interest in physical appearance or personal hygiene
  • Tearfulness – crying more than usual and becoming emotional for no apparent reason
  • Intense feelings of sadness – affecting your ability to function and take care of yourself
  • Suicidal thoughts

psychological symptoms of depression

If you’ve been having suicidal thoughts, or know someone who has, then you need to look for help straight away. Contact a suicide helpline, such as Samaritans, ask for an urgent GP appointment, or go straight to the A&E department at your nearest hospital. For more information, visit our crisis support page.

  • Low energy/excessive fatigue
  • Psychomotor agitation (being restless or unable to sit still)
  • Psychomotor retardation (slowing of movements)
  • Sleep disturbances such as insomnia or struggling to get out of bed
  • Unexplained aches and pains
  • Unexplained digestive problems
  • Sexual dysfunction, including reduced libido and erectile difficulties
  • Appetite changes – either increased or reduced appetite which may also result in weight fluctuations

physical symptoms of depression

In some cases, depression can also lead to physical symptoms like chronic pain or gastrointestinal problems. If you're experiencing any of these symptoms or are concerned about your mental health, it's important to seek professional help. With proper treatment and support, it's possible to manage depression and improve your quality of life.

For a diagnosis of depression to be confirmed, a doctor will assess your state of mind and look for specific symptoms. In the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fifth edition (DSM-5) criteria, which is used to diagnose depression, doctors must look for two ‘core’ symptoms:

  • During the last month have you often been bothered by feeling down, depressed or hopeless?
  • Do you have little interest or pleasure in doing things?

Doctors making the assessment will look to see if one, or both, of these symptoms have been present for at least 2 weeks.

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Depression treatment at Priory

At Priory, we’re renowned for our comprehensive and specialised depression treatment options, providing people with a range of choices to suit their needs. Whether you need intensive care or are looking for more flexible treatment options, we can offer a variety of programmes to support you.

We will always learn about your unique circumstances before setting out any treatment options, so that we’re able to give you the support that works for you. Depending on the severity of your depression, we have a number of different treatment programmes that we can offer to you.

To ensure you get the most out of your treatment plan, each plan is tailor made to your specific needs and requirements, putting you at the centre of your care.

priory treatment enquiry information

Remember, coping with depression is a personal journey, and what works for one person may not work for another. Be patient with yourself and look for support that meets your needs. By building a network of support and implementing healthy coping mechanisms, you’ll be able to start getting back on track.

Urgent help for depression: steps to get immediate support

If you or someone you know is experiencing severe depression and needs immediate assistance, follow these five essential steps to get the urgent help required.

Emergency Help

If you or your loved one feels unable to stay safe or is in immediate danger, it is crucial to seek emergency help right away. Call 999 or visit your local A&E department for immediate assistance and support.

Contact Urgent Helplines

Several helplines offer immediate support for those dealing with severe depression. You can call the Samaritans which is available 24 hours a day, or email them at [email protected]. Another option is to text SHOUT to 85258 for confidential 24/7 support. Additionally, the NHS Urgent Mental Health Helpline is available around the clock to provide immediate mental health assistance.

Access Local Support Services

For local support services, you can search for an out-of-hours GP in your area. Additionally, the Hub of Hope website offers a comprehensive directory of local depression support services, which you can access using your postcode to find the nearest help available.

Specialist Depression Counselling

If you need specialist depression counselling, Priory offers fast access to mental health support. By calling 0330 056 6041, you can connect with Priory's services, which include intensive inpatient treatment and post-crisis assistance to address the underlying causes of depression and support recovery.

Additional Helplines

There are several other helplines that can provide support for depression. Visit our crisis support information page for a full list of helplines available.


When should I get depression treatment?

If you find that your feelings of sadness and hopelessness are overwhelming and are having a negative impact on your day-to-day life, this is a sign that you should consider reaching out for support.

You don't have to face this alone; depression is treatable and we can help you to take steps towards recovery. At Priory, we support thousands of people every year, helping them to address their depression and regain the enriching lives they deserve.

How much does depression treatment cost?

The cost of depression treatment at Priory varies depending on lots of different factors, including how long you need to stay with us for, the type of treatment you need and the location of the centre you’re being treated at. Our referrals team can explain all of this to you during your initial call with us.

Depression treatment at Priory can also be funded through your private medical insurance policy; we are a registered and approved provider for all of the UK’s leading private medical insurers. Call us today for more information.

Can I get depression treatment for free?

We can provide depression treatment both privately and through the NHS at Priory.

However, depression treatment via the NHS can only be accessed by public bodies such as clinical commissioners and mental health trusts. If you would like to know more about the process for accessing treatment on the NHS, your first port of call will be to speak to your GP. It’s likely that you’ll need to join a waiting list for NHS services, which can vary depending on where you live and how severe your depression is. This can feel disheartening if you're distressed and not feeling like yourself.

Private depression treatment at Priory offers fast access to support, with waiting times that are significantly shorter than the national average. Our services can be either self-funded (meaning that you pay for this yourself), or funded via private medical insurance. 

What do I need to prepare for my first appointment?

If you think you’re struggling with depression or have noticed that you’re showing some of the symptoms of depression, it’s really important that you speak to a professional. Without effective treatment, depression can get worse and can have a negative impact on all areas of your life. Getting help early is key.

You can speak to your GP, who can offer an initial assessment and advice, or you can get fast access to private depression treatment with Priory. 

Whichever avenue you take, there are a number of things you can do to prepare for your first contact with a mental health professional.

  • Gather relevant information: before the appointment, it’s a good idea to make a list of your symptoms, including how long they’ve been going on for and how severe they are. It can also be useful to make a list of any medications that you’re currently taking. Be prepared to talk about any significant life events, stressors or changes that may have contributed to the way you’re feeling.
  • Bring necessary documents: take any relevant documents with you to the appointment, such as medical records, previous test results or notes from other professionals you may have seen about your mental health.
  • Prepare questions: write down any questions you have about depression and treatment options, as well as any concerns you have. This will help to ensure that you cover all your queries during the appointment.
  • Be open and honest: during the appointment, it’s really important that you’re open and honest about your symptoms, thoughts and feelings. The more transparent you are, the better the professional will be able to understand your situation and recommend the best treatment for you. There’s no need to feel embarrassed or ashamed about anything you want to say. GPs and other experienced medical professionals are compassionate and understanding, plus everything you say will be confidential.
  • Take notes: it might be a good idea for you to take a notebook to your appointment so you can jot down important information. This will help you to remember key points and any treatment recommendations.
  • Discuss referral to a mental health specialist: if you’re speaking to your GP and feel that you need support from a mental health specialist for your depression, you can ask whether they would be able to refer you to a mental health treatment provider, such as Priory. They’ll be able to give you more information on the referral process, next steps, and potential funding options.

How common is depression?

Depression is a fairly common mental health condition that affects people from all walks of life. Statistics collected on depression from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) and the Office for National Statistics (ONS), estimate that around one in six people in the UK will experience depression at some point in their lives.

These numbers highlight the significance of this condition and emphasise the importance of raising awareness and understanding. Depression doesn’t discriminate based on age, gender or socioeconomic status; it can affect people from all backgrounds.

What are the different types of depression?

There are a number of different types of depression. Each type has distinct characteristics and triggers, and needs tailored treatment approaches. These include:

  • Severe depression
  • Severe depression with psychotic symptoms
  • Mild to moderate depression
  • Bipolar depression
  • Dysthymia (also known as persistent depressive disorder (PDD))
  • Recurrent depressive disorder
  • Postpartum/postnatal depression
  • Seasonal affective disorder (SAD)

What happens if depression is left untreated?

Without treatment, the symptoms you’re experiencing can get worse over time. You may experience a persistent decline in your mental and physical health, resulting in chronic feelings of sadness, hopelessness and a lack of interest in activities that were once important to you. Untreated depression can also have a negative impact on things like memory and concentration, significantly affecting your ability to work, study or maintain relationships. Over time, this can lead to social isolation, substance abuse as a means of self-medication and a higher risk of developing other mental health problems. Getting support for your depression is crucial in order to prevent these outcomes and improve your quality of life.

Depression treatment near me

We have depression treatment centres located throughout the country, ensuring that you can access the support you need in a location that's convenient for you. To find your nearest depression treatment centre, please use the search form below.

Private medical insurance

We are a registered and approved provider for all of the UK's leading private medical insurers. All of the services we offer at Priory can be funded through private medical insurance. This includes:

  • Mental health treatment
  • Addiction treatment
  • Eating disorder treatment

All clients will have access to our highly skilled and accredited clinicians, many of whom are published experts in their fields of treatment. Whatever your requirements, we're committed to working with you to get your life back on track.

Registered and approved provider

We are a registered and approved provider for all of the UK's leading private medical insurers.

Contact us to make an enquiry or for more information

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