Depression treatment has made rapid advances in recent years, with several new medications and treatment options coming to market. Innovation in any industry is a good thing, but when it comes to mental health care, innovation is particularly welcome. New treatment options give patients more choices, allowing them more control over how they choose to manage their depression.
Patients often ask if it is possible to manage depression naturally, without medication. The short answer is yes, it is possible. The more detailed answer is that it depends on a variety of factors, including the patient’s severity level of depression, which alternative options are available and convenient to the patient, and the patient’s own motivation.
Antidepressants and Depression
Before discussing non-medication alternatives to treating depression, we must first acknowledge that there is nothing inherently wrong with using antidepressants to manage depression. Sometimes patients (or their families) have a mistaken belief that relying on antidepressants means you are weak, lack willpower, or have some defect of character. These beliefs are false and are rooted in past stigma and a misunderstanding of mental health.
For many patients, antidepressants are life-saving drugs. Antidepressants are generally effective, and many patients find long-lasting relief from depression with antidepressants. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) such as Prozac (fluoxetine) and Zoloft (sertraline) are widely prescribed for depression and have provided many patients with relief.
Non-medication Treatment Options for Depression
Although antidepressants are generally effective at treating depression and anxiety, there are many valid reasons for not wanting to take antidepressants to treat depression. Some common reasons include patients who prefer a more natural approach, pregnant or breastfeeding mothers who are concerned about the impacts on their baby from taking antidepressants, patient inconvenience, high cost, or unwelcome side effects. There can also be a fatigue element, where patients simply tire of taking medication and want an alternate approach.
There are several effective ways to manage depression without taking antidepressants or other prescription medications. Before choosing any of the below options, you should consult with your mental health provider to determine which option (or combination of options) is most appropriate for you.
Patients in Utah can visit Ampelis Health to see a psychiatrist or psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner (PMHNP) and receive a comprehensive mental health evaluation and a care plan that is unique and customized for them. If you prefer non-medication options for treating your depression, discuss this with your care provider. Your provider can help you choose the most appropriate treatment, or combination of treatments, that will work best.
Self-care Guidelines for Depression Treatment
Treating depression with self-care involves making lifestyle changes which are known to improve mood, reduce depression, and increase mental and physical energy. These self-care options are conducive to good overall health and can be combined with other, non-medication depression treatment alternatives for greater improvement in mental health.
- Regular Exercise. Regular physical activity improves mood and reduces the symptoms of depression. Prioritizing exercise is one of the best ways to keep depression at bay. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise most days of the week for better physical and mental health.
- Diet and Nutrition. What we feed our bodies makes a difference. A balanced diet rich in nutrients, such as whole grains, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D, and antioxidants, can have a positive impact on mood. Avoid excessive consumption of processed foods, sugar, and caffeine, which can cause a depressive effect.
- Healthy Sleep Habits. Create good sleep habits by maintaining a consistent sleep schedule, maintaining a comfortable sleep environment, and avoiding physical and mental stimulants close to bedtime. Our brains depend on good quality sleep for peak brain health and performance.
- Stress Management. Stress can cause depression and anxiety to skyrocket. Learning to manage stress is crucial to self-care efforts to manage depression. Learn and practice stress-reduction techniques like square breathing, meditation, yoga, or progressive muscle relaxation to help manage stress levels.
- Avoid Alcohol and Substance Use. Alcohol and drug use can worsen depression symptoms and create a negative pattern of behavior. Even worse – alcohol and drug use negatively affects several of the self-care healthy habits, such as diet and nutrition and sleep habits.
Psychotherapy to Treat Depression
People looking to treat depression through therapy have multiple options available. It may take a few tries to find the therapy method that works best for you, so don’t be afraid to try several options. Here are some of the most common therapy methods for depression:
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) CBT helps identify and change negative thought patterns and behaviors associated with depression. CBT works on the premise that negative thought patterns and negative learned behavior lie at the root cause of depression and other disorders. By working with a therapist, patients can change these negative thoughts, thus changing their behavior.
Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) IOP programs offer a highly structured, intense therapy experience to patients looking for more rapid change than traditional therapy provides. IOP is a mix of individual and group therapy and seeks to provide the same experience as inpatient treatment but in an outpatient setting. The time commitment for IOP can be high, with programs typically requiring 8-12 hours per week over 8-12 weeks.
Group therapy Joining a support group for individuals who are similarly battling depression can provide a sense of community and help you learn more about your condition and healthy coping strategies. Sharing experiences with others who are going through similar challenges can be both reaffirming and educational. Group therapy for depression is often facilitated by a therapist and may be held in their office.
Treating Depression with TMS (Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation)
TMS is one of the biggest breakthroughs in depression treatment in the last 20 years, first receiving FDA approval to treat depression in 2008. TMS is an interventional psychiatric treatment that stimulates the brain using electromagnetic impulses. These impulses induce a response mechanism in the brain, causing it to create healthy, new pathways and restore healthy brain function.
TMS is a completely non-medication depression treatment that combines modern technology with the body’s own power to heal and regenerate. TMS has been FDA-approved in the U.S. for depression treatment for 15 years and is approved to treat depression, major depressive disorder, anxious depression, and OCD.
TMS is administered at a psychiatric office, such as Ampelis Health. If you would like to explore TMS as a non-medication depression treatment option, please call us today at 435-776-5909 to determine if TMS is an appropriate treatment option for you.