How to Treat Depression Without Medication

How to Treat Depression Without Medication

Published: October 13, 2022

The most common form of treating depression usually involves the use of medication. Pharmaceutical scientists have created various treatments, mostly targeting the balance of brain chemicals - known as neurotransmitters. In some people, these medications don't manage to address the symptoms of depression that they are experiencing. This leads some to seek treatment for depression that doesn't involve the use of medications.

There is an abundance of other non-medical treatments available. This article will highlight many of the treatments that don't involve medication, allowing you to decide how to treat your depression without medication.

Depression: An Overview

Depression is the most common mental health condition. An estimated 300 million people around the world suffer from depression. While it may sound like a simple task to find a treatment to address the mental health condition, there are different types of depression that can affect your mood in different ways.

For example, someone may be struggling with bipolar disorder, which involves extreme mood swings - from mania to depression. While it is still described as a depressive disorder, treating this form of depression may be very different from treating another form of depression. This could be, for example, major depressive disorder, which involves a constant and persistent low mood.

While both are forms of depression, treating someone suffering from bipolar with the same treatment as someone suffering from major depressive disorder may make the condition worse. Treating depression is all the more complicated when realizing that there are at least eight forms of depression.

Types of Depression

  • Major depression
  • Persistent depressive disorder
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Postpartum depression
  • Seasonal depression
  • Psychotic depression
  • Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD)

Symptoms of depression within these subtypes, as mentioned, may vary. However, there are some underlying similarities between them that individuals may suffer from. These common depression symptoms include:

  • Feelings of deep sadness and low moods
  • Low self-esteem
  • Hopelessness
  • Sleep problems, such as poor sleep or insomnia
  • Appetite changes
  • Fatigue or low energy levels
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Negative thinking
  • Difficulty getting through activities, or lack of interest in activities
  • Thoughts about self-harm or death - if you are experiencing either of these, then it is important to speak to a medical professional as soon as possible

If you are having any of these problems for a period of two weeks or more then it could indicate that you are experiencing a form of depression. If this is the case, then you should speak to a medical professional about getting treated. If you have a family history of mental illness, then you are at a higher risk of experiencing mental illness. It is important to speak to your doctor about this if it applies to you.

Ideally, everyone that needs professional help in dealing with their depression would seek professional help for the condition. However, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), only an estimated 66% of adults aged 18 or over, in the US, have actively received treatment in 2020.

This is a figure that, everyone would agree, needs to rise. Hopefully, by reading this and understanding a bit more about treatment, those who struggle with the condition will feel equipped to treat their depression.

How Is Depression Treated With Medication?

How Is Depression Treated With Medication?

A doctor will commonly use medication in treating depression symptoms. Known as antidepressants, these medications aim to increase specific neurotransmitters in the brain, such as serotonin and noradrenaline. Scientists currently think that by changing brain function, antidepressants can result in improved mental well-being.

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are the most common form of antidepressant medication. They work by stopping the reabsorption of the brain chemical, serotonin so that more of it is available. Peer-reviewed studies suggest that the benefit you might experience from this form of depression treatment is dependent on the severity of the depression.

For example, one study, published by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), suggests that antidepressants can be effective against chronic, severe, and moderate depression. It also suggests, however, that they are not as effective in treating less intense forms of depression. In some individuals, even those that suffer from more severe depression, antidepressants aren't effective in relieving symptoms. It is not yet known why some people benefit from antidepressants and why some do not.

A considerable number of people that undergo treatment involving the use of antidepressant medication will experience unwanted and negative side effects. It is well documented that taking antidepressants can, in some cases, actually lead to unwanted physical and emotional effects.

For example, upon starting the drug, many individuals report that their depressive symptoms and psychological stress actually increase for two or more weeks. This tends to dissipate while their body and mind get used to the antidepressants. Others report weight gain and lack of sleep.

When stopping the use of antidepressants, many individuals also report experiencing withdrawal symptoms. These are effects that someone may feel when quitting a drug. For antidepressants, many people who experience withdrawal report the following symptoms:

  • Excessive sweating
  • Feeling unbalanced
  • Stomach problems
  • "Brain zaps" (feeling as if there is an electric shock in your head)

While withdrawal from antidepressants is not generally deemed to be dangerous, it can be troubling and get in the way of day-to-day life.

This is not to say that you shouldn't use antidepressants. Some people find them to be incredibly effective and find that the positive effects outweigh the negative effects. Some people don't experience any of the negative or unwanted side effects mentioned at all. However, for the reasons given, and other reasons, many people decide that medication is not an effective way to fight depression for them.

So what alternative treatments are there?

How Can I Treat Depression Without Medication?

How Can I Treat Depression Without Medication?

There are many different ways of challenging your mental illness. Scientists and psychologists are always developing new methods, ranging from natural remedies, such as St. John's wort, to changing your daily routine to incorporate more exercise. Below you can find some of the various ways that you might be able to combat your condition without the use of medication.

Types of Treatment Without Medication

Lifestyle changes can make a big difference in helping you overcome depression. These may be effective in treating moderate or mild depression. If you feel, however, that you are experiencing a severe form of the condition, then it is important to speak to a medical professional.

Here are some helpful tips that are proven to help in reducing symptoms of depression:

  • Exercise and physical activity - how much exercise you do may affect your mental health (i.e. regular exercise may improve symptoms of depression)
  • Mindfulness meditation - taking time out to meditate and be mindful can help reduce depressive symptoms and anxiety
  • Getting enough sleep - changing your daily schedule and spending time to rest can help tackle both depressive symptoms and anxiety
  • Eating the right foods - food is often thought to relate to mood. By eating right and introducing dietary supplements to your diet, such as St. John's wort, you may notice that your overall well-being improves

There are also other forms of treatment that a doctor may suggest to treat depression. One example of this would be cognitive behavioral therapy, in which an individual works on their patterns of negative thoughts and behaviors that may be leading to their mental illness.

Another of these non-medicinal forms of treating the condition is Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS). A new and potentially effective way to treat depression, early reports suggest that TMS could be as effective, and even more effective, than forms of treatment that use medication. So, what exactly is TMS?

What Is Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS)?

TMS is a non-invasive practice, meaning that nothing enters the body. It involves the use of brief magnetic pulses which a medical professional will apply to specific parts of the brain. It stimulates brain cells by repeatedly delivering these pulses through an electromagnetic coil that is placed on the scalp.

More research is being carried out to assess how effective TMS is, but many studies show that TMS can successfully treat the condition without the need for medication. For those who have unsuccessfully tried treating their condition through the use of medication, TMS may be a source of hope. TMS may also be an option for those that experience unwanted side effects from antidepressant medications.

What Help Should I Get?

Some forms of treatment - such as self-care, getting more sleep, or doing more exercise - can take place at home without the need for a medical professional. Family members or friends can also get involved to help implement such things into your life if that makes sense for you.

However, if you are experiencing a more severe form of the condition, then you should get in touch with a medical professional. They may guide you through treating your mental illness and also help you decide which form of therapy might suit you best.

What Help Should I Get

We're Here To Help

Here, at GIA Chicago, we understand that everyone's experience of depression is different. We create specialized therapy programs that suit your individual needs. Our compassionate staff will ensure that you receive the very best care available.

When treating your condition through GIA Chicago, you can expect various forms of treatment, including transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), right through to family and group therapy, and more.

There is no better place to start your journey to wellness than with GIA Chicago.

Contact us here, or call us at (312) 313-4566. Our phone lines are available twenty-four hours a day, so whenever you need us, we will be there.

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