Depression can have a significant impact on a patient’s quality of life and well-being. Yet only a third of individuals with major depression have found a suitable way to treat the condition. This article will discuss complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) and its use as a depression treatment. These can act as a supplement to other medications or offer alternative therapies for those with depression. There may also be depressed outpatients looking for help with recovery.
You may want to explore CAM treatments if you have pre-existing medical conditions or if you have not benefited from antidepressant trials. You might also be taking other treatments which could impact your ability to take standard antidepressants due to adverse drug interactions. This article provides details of these alternative treatments for depression or mental illness to help with the healing process.
What Is Major Depressive Disorder?
According to the American Psychiatric Association (APA), major depressive disorder currently affects almost 7% of the US population. In comparison, almost 20% will experience mild or moderate depression in their lifetime. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual For Health Disorders (DSM) helps to provide a diagnosis of clinical depression, along with diagnostic tools like depression scores. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) also helps to provide support for clinical depression in the US and helps to treat mental health problems.
Read on below to explore some of the different types of depression:
- Major Depressive Disorder – severe depression. Patients might feel depressed most of the time. This depression will significantly impact their daily life.
- Moderate Depression – this describes feelings of worthlessness, low self-esteem, and issues with productivity. You may see an impact on your ability to concentrate and your social life.
- Mild Depression – this condition describes an intermittent mental illness that can interfere with your quality of life. You might feel like this for a few days or a week.
- Postpartum Depression – you may experience this form of depressive disorder after having a baby. It can lead to constant sadness and also difficulty bonding with your child.
- Mood disorders – there are also several mental disorders like bipolar disorder and seasonal affective disorder, which may involve depressive symptoms. Generalized anxiety disorders (GAD) lead to a constant feeling of worry or unease. GAD symptoms might also include depressive symptoms.
Complementary And Alternative Treatments For Depression
What Different Forms Of Medical Treatments Are Available?
Standard western medical practice allows for the prescription of different forms of antidepressant drugs to relieve the symptoms of depression. There are several FDA-approved tricyclic antidepressants that help depressed patients relieve symptoms. These traditional antidepressants are also known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and are used in conjunction with non-drug approaches to help treat mental disorders.
What Alternative Treatments Are Available For Depression?
There are many alternative therapy options available to treat mental health conditions. Many of these are also complementary therapies, which work alongside medical intervention to help alleviate symptoms of depressive disorders. The combination of medical and complementary health treatment is called integrative medicine. You may also hear the term holistic used when the treatment looks at how to best help the whole person, not just treat depression.
Treating Major Depressive Disorder With Alternative Treatments Like Therapy
Talking therapy is the process of treating depression by talking through your problems with a counselor. Talking therapy may draw from several different therapy types. It can also be used as an umbrella term for some of the forms of therapy described in this article. Licensed mental health professionals, or the supervision of your healthcare provider, should be involved when using this form of therapy as a treatment for depression.
Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MCBT) combines cognitive behavioral therapy with mindfulness and meditation. This systematic review provides evidence that MBCT can reduce depression relapses by 20%. Biological psychiatry is commonly used by psychotherapy specialists and focuses on identifying the biological causes that cause the condition. Biological psychiatrists will look at your lifestyle and what foods you eat, your physical health, and how much you exercise. Mental conditioning is a way of altering your mindset through visualization and brain training techniques, and meditation is the practice of focusing your attention and self-awareness. Different ways of practicing meditation and mindfulness are available, including breathing techniques or guided meditation.
Free therapies are available for patients, like online sessions or wellness resources. These online counseling sessions are a great way to supplement mental health treatments if you can’t afford the cost of paid talking therapies.
Are There Any Other Alternative Therapies To Improve My Mental Health?
As well as talk therapy, there are other non-invasive treatments that can help patients with mental health problems. Your doctor might suggest lifestyle changes like increasing the amount you exercise. They may also suggest you cut back on habits like smoking and drinking. Several studies suggest a strong link between depression and the risk of addictive behavior.
How Can I Improve My Mental Health With Alternative Treatments?
There are several other alternatives to therapy that can supplement exercise and a healthy lifestyle change to improve mental health conditions:
- Light Therapy – Light therapy is a way of treating severe depressive disorder through exposure to an artificial light source. The light is designed to mimic natural light and may influence the brain chemicals linked to sleep and mood.
- Music Therapy – Music therapy uses patients’ connection to music to evoke feelings of well-being. It can include listening to music, moving to music, singing, and physically making music with instruments.
- Manual Acupuncture – Acupuncture is a traditional Chinese medicine that uses sterilized needles on your body to help release energy. Further research is needed for evidence supporting the treatment of depression through acupuncture. However, several clinical trials support evidence that acupuncture releases endorphins, which boost mood.
- Massage Therapy – Massage therapy may relieve tension and reduce symptoms by releasing endorphins. Aromatherapy massage, which is a form of massage that uses essential oils and plant extracts, may also reduce symptoms.
Are There Any Herbal Remedies Or Supplementary Treatments That Can Help My Health?
Herbal medicine options and supplementary treatments may also aid mental health conditions. St. John’s Wort has had a systematic review to assess its effectiveness for short-term depression. The results have shown comparative efficacy in the same way as antidepressant medication. St. John’s Wort is traditionally sold as a dietary supplement.
In addition to St. John’s Wort, other herbal remedies are available to alleviate symptoms. Some include ginseng, Valerian, and Chai Hu, which are types of herbal supplements. There is insufficient evidence of the effectiveness of this form of treatment, but as a herbal remedy, they have formed parts of centuries-old cures. Several vitamin dietary supplements can also act as a complementary therapy. Vitamin D, Vitamin B-12, Vitamin C, and Omega-3 fatty acids may help manage brain chemicals and mood regulation. These can all act as supplementation to help manage the condition.
Are There Any Limitations To Complementary And Alternative Medicine?
Future research is needed before establishing the efficacy of some of these complementary and alternative medicine treatments. A randomized controlled trial is yet to yield evidence that CAM therapies are effective as a way to treat symptoms of depression. You should always consult your doctor for treatment and never try diagnosing yourself. This list is intended as a guide to alternative therapies to aid your recovery. Healthy eating, regular exercise, peer support, and time spent outdoors can also act as non-drug treatments to help reduce anxiety and depressive symptoms.
Your healthcare provider should assist with the use of complementary and alternative therapies. This is for safety reasons, and over time, you should see a significant improvement in your health. If you need urgent support with your health, please use one of these hotlines for help today.