Depressive disorders are commonly encountered by primary care practitioners. Some four million people in Germany suffer from depression. This disease, which is life-threatening primarily due to the suicide risk, is still often not recognized and, consequently, undertreated. Once diagnosed, depression can be treated successfully with antidepressants, cognitive behavior therapy/interpersonal psychotherapy or a combination of both. Newer, selective drugs are preferred when choosing a suitable antidepressant due to their better tolerability and lower toxicity. A synopsis of the diagnosis and therapeutic algorithm of depressive disorders as well as recommendations for referrals to a specialist or hospital for the primary care physician are provided.