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Alternative Methods for Depression Treatments

Friday 18 September 2020
Mental Health

Table of Contents


I. Understanding Depression

a. The Role of Medications

II. Herbal Remedies

III. Exercise

IV. Meditation and Relaxation


Understanding Depression

No one enjoys periods of sadness in their life. If these periods become longer and longer or never go away, then you may have depression. This mood disorder can occur for several reasons. Depression is often a combination of personality traits, life situations, genetics, and brain chemistry.

Depression can be long-term for some people or may occur in shorter episodes for others. Regardless of the type of depression, it is essential to seek treatment. This common mental health problem affects millions of people in the United States.  Untreated, depression may result in self-harm or suicide. Suicide is the second leading cause of death in people aged 15-29. [1] 

Many people do not seek help for their depression and choose to ignore their feelings and push them down. It is likely someone you know has experienced depression, so there's no reason to remain quiet. Some common symptoms of depression can include:

  • Sleep disturbances
  • Anxiety and agitation
  • Frequent or recurrent thoughts of death
  • Unexplained physical problems
  • Slowed thinking
  • Loss of interest in activities
  • Trouble thinking or concentrating [2]

a man looking out a gray window

a. The Role of Medications 

Doctors will often perform numerous psychological tests to make sure you receive the right medication. People are commonly prescribed SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) and SNRIs (serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors). These drugs are typically safe and have fewer side effects than alternatives. SSRIs and SNRIs keep feel-good hormones in the brain (serotonin and dopamine) and prevent these hormones' reuptake in the bloodstream. Celexa (Citalopram) and Trintellix (vortioxetine) are two common SSRIs while Effexor XR is a common SNRI.

There are numerous medications out there to help with depression, and you may have to try several types to find the right one for you. Depending on the severity of your depression, you may improve your symptoms with alternative techniques. Read on to learn more about helpful strategies and techniques to improve your depression. [2]

Herbal Remedies

Before beginning any herbal remedy regime, it is essential to speak to your doctor. Some substances can interact with prescription medications and lead to potentially dangerous side effects. If your doctor approves herbal supplements, you should start with small amounts to make sure your body does not react negatively. [3] Some common herbs that may improve your mood can include:

St. John’s wort: There has been lots of evidence to support that this herb may reduce symptoms in those with mild-to-moderate depression. Herbal supplements do not have the power to help with severe or major depression. St. John's wort contains hypericin, hyperforin, and flavonoids, which increase serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine in the brain. Talk to your doctor about taking St. John's wort because it may interact with birth control. [4]

ginkgo leaves with water droplets on them

Ginkgo biloba: This supplement is extracted from the leaves of the Chinese ginkgo tree. It has been shown to have neuroprotective effects and may prevent cognitive impairment. Ginkgo may prevent anxiety and lessen mild depressive symptoms. [5]

Exercise

Moving your body can dramatically increase your mood. When you get your heart rate up and exercise, it releases endorphins, serotonin, and dopamine. In this way, exercise can act as a natural antidepressant. Exercise also allows you to take your mind off any worries and provides an outlet to cope with your problems in a healthy way. Exercise doesn’t necessarily mean running five miles every day, but it can be any activity that makes you feel better. [3] Exercises can include:

Yoga: Yoga can be helpful for depression because it allows you to focus on your breathing and movement instead of your depression symptoms. Yoga can energize the body and help you keep calm, which can help prevent anxiety. The postures and movements are beneficial to your body and mind. Yoga is an easy exercise to start because you can find hundreds of yoga exercises online or attend classes in person.

Strength training: Boosting your strength may help reduce your symptoms of depression. One recent study of 45 stroke survivors with depression found that a ten-week strength training program helped reduce depression symptoms. Lifting weights can be beneficial for depression patients because you can see the results on your own body. You can see your body becoming stronger along with your mind. [6]

a woman lifting weights in a gym

Meditation and Relaxation

As mentioned above, with yoga, being mindful can be supremely helpful in battling depression. Meditation is an altered state of consciousness that can be practiced for relaxation. A meditative state is entered purposely to clear the mind by focusing on a single thought for at least 10 minutes a day. This may not be easy at first, so you may want to start with a guided meditation online or a mindfulness app.

If you find meditating helpful, you may also want to see a guided imagery coach. Guided imagery is a form of relaxation that helps connect your mind and body. A guided imagery coach will help you conjure calm, peaceful images in mind. In times of stress or anxiety, you can tap into this peaceful mental escape to cope with your depressive symptoms. [3]

The content in this article is intended for informational purposes only. This website does not provide medical advice. In all circumstances, you should always seek the advice of your physician and/or other qualified health professionals(s) for drug, medical condition, or treatment advice. The content provided on this website is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.