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Depression is not only one of the most widespread and prevalent of the major psychiatric disorders but also one of the most excessively researched mental illnesses. It has often fundamentally affects people’s well-being and quality of life. While a study discovered that of over 5.000 British residents approximately 5.9% of the males and 4.2% of the females did suffer from depressive illnesses (based on DSM-IV criteria) (Ohayon et al. 1999), the literature suggests that the depression course differs from individual to individual, as does the effect of and the response to a treatment.

As 85% of currently depressed individuals in primary care and 78% in psychiatric settings do endure relapse from depression after treatment (Coyne, Pepper, Flynn, 1999) it becomes self-evident to grasp and comprehend different techniques and methods to treat depression and evaluate their strengths and weakness (Khan-Bourne & Brown, 2003). Consequently this brief aims to review some of the current state of research on three treatments which rely less on medication and exclude pharamcotherapy. The treatments which will be critically evaluated are electro-convulsive therapy, cognitive behaviour therapy, and acupuncture treatment.


According to the DSM-VI, the symptoms of depression fall into four different categories: cognitive (feelings of low self-worth or unbecoming guilt), physical (forms of insomnia or loss of appetite), emotional (enormous sorrowful feelings), and motivational (lack of motivation and aspiration). In other words, everyday feelings of sadness are not as comprehensive, long-lasting and extreme as depression experienced as a mental disorder. Nonetheless, the term depression stands for an ample amount of illnesses that are not comparable in terms of severity and time course since it ranges in severity from mild irregular conditions of natural emotions to disorders of psychotic intensity (Hollon, Thase & Markowitz, 2002).

Murray and Lopez (1997) reported that although depression can be regarded as the top reason for people being disconnected from everyday healthy living worldwide the majority of individuals (approximately 80%) who suffer from depression never seek treatment, according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). As, however, the amount of people experiencing depression has almost reached an epidemic status, and being mentally ill is not stigmatised to such an extend by society, more and more people inform themselves and seek treatment (Hollon et al., 2002).

The goal of treating depression should be to reach both a thorough symptom and risk of relapse minimisation; and as a consequence, to improve significantly the patients’ quality of life. Ellis and collaborators (2003) noted that for a treatment to be generally successful it must include and provide certain essential elements in the treatment plan. Maximising the collaboration and identification between the patient and the treatment in a therapeutic alliance which embraces the patient’s social network is, for instance, only one of the necessary pillars of an effective treatment. Gwosdow and Staff (2003) added that tailoring t