The Genesis Health Blog
Non-Drug Treatment for Depression
It’s common knowledge that depression can be treated with medication. There are many different types of antidepressant medications available, from SSRIs to older drug classes like tricyclic antidepressants. These medications have been proven to be effective for the treatment of depression.
But maybe you’ve tried antidepressants and for one reason or another don’t want to take them. Is there a non-drug treatment for depression you could try? What other options are out there?
Some people may not be able to take antidepressant medications due to other health conditions. Some people (up to 40% of people, studies show) may have tried medication but found that it didn’t work for them. Others may simply prefer not to be on medication due to side effects or another reason but don’t know what their other treatment options may be.
At Genesis Behavioral Health, we believe that every patient should be equipped with accurate information so they’re able to make treatment decisions that are right for them.
Here are six non-drug approaches to depression if you’ve decided that medication isn’t for you.
Transcranial magnetic stimulation, or TMS therapy, is FDA-approved as a safe and effective treatment for major depressive disorder. It’s a popular choice of treatment for people who haven’t found relief from their depression symptoms through therapy or medication. The reason for its popularity is that it’s effective, but doesn’t have the same side effects and risks as other treatments like medication.
TMS therapy works by delivering electromagnetic micropulses to your scalp. These pulses activate certain regions of your brain that are affected by depression. The treatment is painless and non-invasive; you don’t need to go under anesthesia to receive it, and it’s delivered on an outpatient basis.
If you’ve found that therapy and medication aren’t helpful for you and are looking for a safe, non-drug treatment for depression, TMS therapy may be right for you.
Like TMS therapy, electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is also a type of brain stimulation therapy. Rather than the electromagnetic technology that’s used in TMS, ECT sends electric currents through your brain. This causes a surge of electrical activity in your brain (or gives you a small seizure), activating the regions that have been affected by depression.
ECT has been found to be an effective treatment for depression, even when other treatment methods haven’t worked. But it doesn’t come without its drawbacks. Because ECT causes seizures, you must be put under general anesthesia to receive it. It also comes with some risks, including memory loss. On the contrary, TMS doesn’t require you to go under anesthesia, and side effects are usually mild.
With that said, ECT is much safer than it used to be 一 and it can be a great non-drug treatment option, especially for people with severe depression.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Cognitive-behavioral therapy, or CBT, is one of the most highly recommended treatment options available for depression. It’s been shown to be effective, and some studies show that it’s even more effective than antidepressant medication. A combination of CBT and medication is what most authorities currently recommend for the treatment of depression.
CBT is based on the idea that our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are all interconnected. You might not be able to control how depression makes you feel, but you always have control over your thoughts. And often, it’s your thoughts that lead you to feeling depressed. Depression can cause you to have unreliable, untrue, and unhelpful thoughts 一 which make you feel worse and worse.
CBT therapists can help you to challenge these irrational thoughts. For example, you may have the thought, “I’m worthless. I can’t do anything right.” A CBT therapist may help you to challenge the truthfulness of this thought. Is it true that you have never done anything right? Perhaps a more accurate thought might be, “I made a mistake this time, but I often do things well.”
You may not think of exercise as a non-drug treatment for depression, but studies have found that it’s effective, even on its own 一 especially if your depression is mild to moderate. Some studies have even shown that exercise can be just as effective as antidepressant medication for some people. In one study, exercise was more effective than a social support group.
Physical exercise, including aerobic activity, lifting weights, and yoga, can be a helpful addition to your routine if you live with depression. Exercises like these can lift your mood through the release of endorphins; endorphins are chemicals in the brain that take away the pain and increase pleasure.
Exercise alone may not be enough if your depression is severe. However, adding it to any other treatment you’re receiving is bound to have benefits.
What if we told you that one of the best things you could do to treat depression symptoms without medications was to get some sleep?
Sleep and depression can become locked in a vicious cycle. Having depression affects your sleep 一 many people with depression report that they either have trouble falling asleep, or they have trouble waking up. But being sleep-deprived also makes your depression symptoms worse.
Studies have found that antidepressants can help people recover from both depression and co-occurring sleep disorders. For those who don’t want to use medication, there are specific types of CBT that help you get better sleep. Being more well-rested should improve your symptoms of depression, although you probably also need another treatment alongside this.
Focus on Overall Health
Although we think of depression as a mental health disorder – and it is – in reality, things aren’t so black-and-white. Your body and your mind are connected, and how you treat your body makes a big difference in your mental well-being. Overall health can contribute to how we feel mentally, so taking care of our physical health can help alleviate symptoms of depression.
This is usually referred to as a holistic health approach. Instead of focusing only on your depression symptoms, you can focus on living a holistically healthier life by eating well, exercising, and getting enough sleep.
Depression affects all of these areas. When you’re depressed, you’re more likely to be sedentary. You’re more likely to have sleep problems and not eat well. By improving your overall health and taking care of your body, you’ll also be taking care of your mind.
Genesis Behavioral Health is the industry-leading provider of TMS therapy in San Antonio, Texas as well as a cognitive behavioral therapy provider – each is a non-drug treatment for depression. We offer a wide range of modalities and an emphasis on multi-disciplinary care options. If you’re looking for a non-drug treatment for depression, reach out to our intake department today to learn how we can help.