It’s human nature to cycle through a range of emotions, but some unpleasant feelings—like the ones that come with depression—can stick around for a long time if they’re not addressed. All Veterans deserve to live their best life and VA offers a variety of therapies shown to help with mental health concerns, including depression.

What is depression?

Major depressive disorder, usually called depression, is a mental health condition marked by long-term sadness and a lack of interest in the normal pleasures of life. Typically, depression is caused by a combination of inherited, environmental and psychological factors.

Trauma, the loss of a loved one, a difficult relationship or a stressful situation may spur a depressive episode. However, depression also may develop without an obvious cause or trigger.

Some people with depression experience negative thoughts that recur throughout the day while others experience bursts of severe unhappiness or hopelessness. Because of the different ways that depression is experienced, Veterans might think what they are feeling is just a regular case of the blues.

Common signs of depression include:

  • Feeling sad or hopeless;
  • Losing interest or pleasure in most of your daily activities;
  • Gaining or losing weight;
  • Sleeping too much or not enough almost every day;
  • Feeling tired or as if you have no energy almost every day;
  • Eating more or less than usual almost every day.

If you are having these or other, similar symptoms, talk with your provider about VA’s many therapies shown to help relieve or resolve depression symptoms.

Proven therapies for depression

Evidence-based therapies (meaning therapies that have been scientifically tested and proved to be effective) are considered the best treatments for mental health conditions like depression. Shown to work quickly—sometimes within a few weeks or months, depending on the nature or severity of the symptoms—these therapies can greatly improve a Veteran’s quality of life.

At VA, five evidence-based therapies are commonly used to treat depression:

  •  Cognitive behavioral therapy for depression helps Veterans develop more balanced and helpful thoughts about themselves, others and the future. This type of therapy explores the relationship between thoughts and emotions and focuses on changing thoughts and behaviors to improve mood.
  • Acceptance and commitment therapy for depression encourages Veterans to take productive actions that align with their values in order to overcome emotional pain and worry. ACT-D improves symptoms of depression by helping you manage the thoughts and feelings that overwhelm your sense of well-being.
  • Interpersonal therapy helps Veterans understand the connection between their depression and their relationships. It also helps you address relationship problems caused by life changes, relationship conflicts, grief or other issues.

Problem solving and behavioral activation

  • Problem solving therapy for depression focuses on the ways that people cope with stressful events, helping Veterans change how they react to and attempt to solve real-life problems. PST-D is typically 12 sessions but is flexible depending on your existing problem-solving and emotional regulation skills.
  • Behavioral activation for depression builds on the idea that depression causes people to withdraw from their routines and environment, which over time can make them more depressed as they lose opportunities to have pleasant experiences and social activity.

By increasing your contact with rewarding activities and people, BA-D helps you lessen symptoms of depression and improve your life context.

Although these therapies treat depression in different ways, all have been shown to reduce unpleasant feelings and improve Veterans’ well-being. And with all five, Veterans are asked to attend sessions regularly and work with their therapist to set and work toward treatment goals.

Over time, Veterans who actively participate in treatment will find that they have fewer or less severe mental health challenges. Some even find that their symptoms have gone away. Hear the stories of other Veterans who have reached out for treatment and are living fuller lives today.

Take the next step

If you are experiencing depression or believe it’s time to change your current care plan, speak with your provider or call your local VA facility. Treatment is different for everyone, and if you talk openly about your needs and concerns, your provider can help you find the therapy that’s best for you.

Resources

By Chris M. Crowe

VA National Mental Health director, Psychotherapy

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Published on Aug. 31, 2022

Estimated reading time is 3.6 min.

Views to date: 10,863

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16 Comments

  1. Morgan September 4, 2022 at 10:30 am - Reply

    I have been dealing with the depression for such a long time I tried VA counseling I didn’t see any Improvement… so, instead of therapy, I’m building elevated food stands for cats n dogs it relieves pain n emotions a side…I feel much better having my 4lgs as a my pressure valve w/out them n my stands I’m back to square 1… my advise, do somethin where U use hands n mind be creative U be suprise w/end results … it’s hitting in U… U just need to bring it out…

  2. Montie September 2, 2022 at 10:35 pm - Reply

    This is BS. At least in Temple, TX. Bounced around from on therapist to another. They took my meds that were working and then put me in a group therapy with people that wasn’t even close to my needs.
    I Complained, they told me they were overbooked and understaffed.
    4 years later, I still just manage it my own way. They always call and say they have improved, and it’s the same story. 5 different therapists in less than a year will never work.

    • Stuart R. Snider, M.D., Cpt September 24, 2022 at 9:43 pm - Reply

      Monte this is so similar to what happened to me. I have been on a “prescribed medication schedule” for 30 years, the last 9 years through VA for Major Depression, chronic PTSD, ADHD, Panic Attacks & nerve damage from Agent Orange. I was fairly stable all that time. But, my VA psychiatrist of 9 years retired 2+ years ago & I have yet to be assigned to a psychiatrist who practices medication management. All of my meds that have kept me stable all these years have been “de-prescribed” and over the phone no less!
      I am 80yo this month & have 70% disability for PTSD alone. That is proof I need Rx for PTSD.
      But no, now I’m told I am too old to continue any of my meds, that my ADHD problems are “caused” by my meds and ALL of my psych diagnoses are due to “polypharmacy.”
      This is gross malpractice & age discrimination!
      We are not alone, there are too many others being subjected to mental torture.
      I was a battalion surgeon during the Tet Offensive 1967-69. I was a practicing neurologist for 35 yrs. And I say the VA Psych Dept is deadly.

  3. Melinda September 2, 2022 at 3:03 pm - Reply

    I have been trying to reply to a couple of the commenters here but I see my comments haven’t been allowed. Why? I haven’t used any inappropriate language nor anything else like that.

  4. Ryan September 2, 2022 at 11:51 am - Reply

    The VA in Georgia is so bad that when you call the main VA line and wait for 30 minutes they pretend they cant hear you but if u start screaming they laugh and hung up. The second time i called they did the same thing but i know they could hear me because i started cussing and then they replied with “what?” Then hung up. Ive been to Washington state and Massachusetts. Both states were 20 times better VA wise but unfortunately i cannot afford to live in those states anymore i got priced out now im stuck in Georgia again. I even went to the ER for help but i got kicked out because i had a drug problem

    • Melinda September 2, 2022 at 2:56 pm - Reply

      You need to call the VA OIG and file a complaint. There is No excuse for that behaviour. It is definitely UNPROFESSIONAL and those people should not be working there.

  5. Sharra Williams September 1, 2022 at 10:56 pm - Reply

    VA therapies only made my problems worse, because imagine the lack of common sense it requires on a therapist’s part to try to walk me home from a place they’ve never been, and couldnt go if they tried. You have no mental map… and you don’t know the way in nuance or language, so you’re just wrong, and loud about it. It’s insulting.

  6. Crystal September 1, 2022 at 6:56 pm - Reply

    Recently, my outside the VA therapist is leaving, so I called and spoke to someone at the VA about receiving talk therapy at the VA hospital, and I was told they do ‘goal oriented’ care, and a Veteran can ONLY have up to 12 sessions. To me, as a female Veteran, this is NOT helpful with my Depression, Anxiety, and PTSD issues. Sometimes, It takes me months to open up about certain things; my life is a soap opera that pivots like a roller coaster. Thankfully, I was referred to someone outside the VA again, and the VA will pay for it. In the above article, the treatments suggested have been somewhat helpful to me, BUT only combined with psychotherapy (talk therapy) too. I hope things change for Veterans, like long-term treatment for Major Depressive Disorder. Imho, it’s not a short fix, and the treatments in the article make it seem so.

  7. Francisco ortiz September 1, 2022 at 5:51 pm - Reply

    Muy buena información

  8. Donald Jones September 1, 2022 at 3:31 pm - Reply

    I have been able to manage depression since my ETS in early 70s ,45 years I signed up for VA healthcare getting help with that was a major challenge fortunately I found someone on the outside that helped me get in the VA system with all the hate and racest in the system a white man can’t even directions or even to get a ride in the parking shuttle. The most I could get from the VA is angisety provoked

  9. Kendra Sowle September 1, 2022 at 12:34 pm - Reply

    Why is Ketamine infusion therapy not mentioned? Ketamine has gotten me off of opiates and benzos. Ketamine has taken away my depression and lessened my physical and mental pain from service related injuries. Ketamine has allowed me to catch back up on my life and bills and be a productive part of society again. The doctors at the VA are held down by black and white federal policies and not allowed to properly treat me (US, VETERANS) so my depression and pain is a rollercoaster. My neuropsychologist even said it willingly last time I saw him. It doesn’t need to be like this. When we complain about the VA, it’s usually their black and white policies, not the Doctors, nurses, or any other employees, the POLICIES and how they don’t allow the VA employees to treat us like actual people like they want to too help us, but they can’t, because the policy says so. “Community care” falls 100% inlinw with this too. It’s just another public pleasing policy that doesn’t help us at all. Stop wasting our tax dollars on endless depression pills. Give us Ketamine. (Not the Johnson & Johnson esketamine. That doesn’t work either.) I’ve talked to many other veterans that have been in the Ketamine programs and the majority say the same thing about it. It’s amazing.

    • Zak September 1, 2022 at 8:42 pm - Reply

      You are not alone in this fight! many other people feel the same about policy and federal level interference. I would love to talk with the people that make the policy’s at the federal level.
      If a medication works why are they blocking its usage?

      • Melinda September 2, 2022 at 2:46 pm - Reply

        Simple answer. The all mighty dollar. If the VA can cheap out, they will. Case in point. If you go to an outside chiropractor that VA pays for, the chiropractor charges $50 for each visit. The VA only pays the chiropractor $38.75 for each visit. Why? Because that’s all Medicare would pay. The VA is cheap that’s why they won’t pay what is billed. As to the Ketamine, I can just hear the excuses, it costs too much and oh, it’s not in the formulary.

      • Melinda September 2, 2022 at 2:58 pm - Reply

        Simple answer is it comes down to the almighty dollar. They’ll probably say it costs too much and it’s not in their formulary.

  10. Jay C Wilson September 1, 2022 at 4:07 am - Reply

    I’m a Gulf War veteran. Field Artillery. I don’t know if war is cause, childhood trauma or the past 30+ yrs of life after ARMY. But I got severe depression, I can’t even believe I’m commenting on this article. I’m glad someone wrote it.

  11. Charles Hannert August 31, 2022 at 9:41 pm - Reply

    So I have been depressed since 1963 what do I do now ? Only neglect from the VA , military, and government until about 2 years ago, have had CPT, now doing an ACT course, what’s next at my age ? Almost 78 years old now.

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