Treating Depression

Depression does not discriminate; it doesn’t care about your age, race, gender, or economic status.  It is a real illness that affects a number of people, but it is treatable. 

On Monday, August 11, Robin Williams, beloved actor and comedian, committed suicide after many years of suffering from severe depression and drug and alcohol addictions.  Mr. Williams was known for his energetic and emotionally charged performances on both stage and screen. Many fans may wonder how a man who shared so much joy and laughter could feel depressed.    

Those who suffer from depression often hide their symptoms because they feel ashamed or judged.    People who have depression show a range of severity, they can have feelings of perpetual sadness to thoughts of suicide.  Depression can be treated using a number of evidence-based and innovative treatments.  1 out of 10 adults suffers from depression; if you or someone you know is suffering from depression, there is hope.

What does depression look like?

Depression comes in many forms.  It is estimated that fewer than 50% of people with depression receive a diagnosis. Some people with depression don’t seek treatment because of the belief that everyone feels alone, sad, or hopeless at times.  However, if these feelings last for two weeks or longer, then depression could result. Other symptoms of depression can be identified as:

  • Feelings of intense and/or persistent sadness
  • Increased need for sleep or difficulty sleeping
  • A noticeable increase or decrease in appetite
  • Suicidal thoughts or actions
  • Repeated episodes of uncontrollable or spontaneous crying
  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Feelings of worthlessness
  • Loss of enjoyment from things that are typically enjoyable
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Noticeably more irritable moods
  • Noticeable decrease in emotional and/or physical energy


How can depression be treated?

Depression has a number of underlying causes and there is not one universal method of treatment.  If you, or someone you know, has any symptoms of depression please consult your doctor or of our clinical psychiatrist to discuss a treatment that would be best for you or your loved one.

Psychotherapy is one method of treating depression, this consists of speaking with a mental healthcare provider about depression and discussing how to change your thoughts.  Another method of treatment is the use of physician prescribed drugs to help alleviate the symptoms of depression.   Both treatments are effective, evidence-based treatments for coping with depression.

However, 1 out of every 3 people diagnosed with depression are unaffected by psychotherapy and prescribed medications. This severity of depression is known as treatment resistant depression.  An alternative treatment for this form of depression is brain stimulation.  There are several methods of brain stimulation and the type is based on the severity of the depression. The latest innovation in brain stimulation practiced at Duke University Medical Center is known as repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (rTMS).  rTMS is a form of non-invasive brain stimulation that uses focused magnetic stimulation to alter the neural circuits in the brain, which are thought to be responsible for depression. This is an exciting new treatment because, unlike other types of brain stimulation, rTMS does not require anesthesia allowing many patients to drive themselves to and from treatments.

If you or someone you know is suffering from depression, Duke Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences would like to help.  If you would like to make an appointment with a Duke depression specialist please call 919-684-0100.

Brain Stimulation and Neurophysiology

Brain Stimulation Clinic and Research Program

Noninvasive Neuromodulatory Neuroscience (N3) Lab