The 2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) found that approximately 17.3 million adults in the U.S. aged 18 and over had experienced one or more major depressive episodes in the previous year. It is thought that depression impacts the mental health of approximately 10 to 15 percent of the population of the United States annually.
While many individuals find relief by taking prescribed antidepressant medication, and undergoing psychotherapy, these therapies do not work for everyone. Some experts estimate that up to 30 percent of depressed patients do not get significant relief from traditional therapies.
The good news is that medications are not the only answer; there are some alternative treatments for depression that may work as well. Additionally, what works for one person, may not work for another. The hard part here may be finding what works for you, and staying with it long enough to see results.
The aim of this article is to present information about some of the other depression treatment options that are out there. Many of these alternative therapies can be more effective if used in conjunction with one another; yes, sometimes more is better. For example, re-establishing social connections and adding a regular exercise routine to your day can have an immediate and positive impact on your attitude and outlook, while creating a feeling of well being.
It is important to stress here that there are no magic bullets for depression and depression symptoms. Antidepressant medications like SSRI (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors) can take up to 4 weeks to begin to alleviate symptoms. The other options such as psychotherapy (1:1 or group) can not only be challenging to some, but this method also takes patience and perseverance. It is by no means an easy task to undertake escape from the grip of depression.
The National Library of Medicine has this to say about severe depression:
Major depressive disorder (MDD) is one of the most prevalent and fastest-growing diseases in North America. New-generation antidepressants appear more effective than older drugs, with response rates of up to 50%,1 but they do not effectively treat all depressed patients.
As previously mentioned, in addition to the standard treatments available, there are some alternative mental health treatments. While these methods have been used successfully to treat depression that is resistant to medication therapy. However, just like the standard methods, these alternative therapies may also require a determined perseverance to achieve freedom from the prison that depression can create.
Treating Major Depressive Disorder
Major depression, also called unipolar depression, is currently one of the most serious mental health issues in the United States today.
In seeking relief from major depressive disorder, evaluation by a psychiatrist is considered to be the best place to begin. Symptoms of depression include: less interest in pleasurable activities, feelings of guilt or worthlessness, lack of energy, poor concentration, appetite changes, slowing of mental or physical abilities, feelings of restlessness and anxiety, sleep disturbances, or suicidal thoughts.
If you feel you may be suffering from some or all of these symptoms, there are a variety of interactive questionnaires available on the internet that can help you determine the next best course to take.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is one of the most effective methods used to help people identify, challenge and change negative beliefs and thought patterns.
The American Psychological Association has this to say:
Cognitive behavioral therapy is a form of psychological treatment that has been demonstrated to be effective for a range of mental health problems including depression, anxiety disorders, alcohol and drug use problems, marital problems, eating disorders, and severe mental illness. Numerous research studies suggest that CBT leads to significant improvement in functioning and quality of life for many individuals. In many studies, CBT has been demonstrated to be as effective as, or more effective than, other forms of psychological therapy or psychiatric medications.
When used in conjunction with traditional antidepressants, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is generally considered by most mental health professionals to be a very effective way to reduce symptoms of depression, and increase positivity, in just a few sessions.
What Is A Holistic Approach to Treating Depression?
Ideally, a holistic approach to treating any mental illness will focus on treating the whole person — body and mind together — in order to help you feel better as soon as possible. While medications and individual therapy are the methods that produce positive results most frequently, these methods can take time, and some effort as well as persistence.
A complementary treatment for depression is one that is used in addition to the standard techniques. Some of these methods, such as developing and maintaining social connections, exercise and mediation combined with medication and therapy and can be considered as holistic because they cover all facets of a person’s needs. These needs include not only the mental and physical, but the emotional and spiritual as well.
In cases of treatment-resistant depression to the methods used in standard Western medical practice, there are several alternative treatment options. Some, but not all, of the alternative therapies listed below are generally administered by a trained healthcare provider, in a medical setting.
These treatments include such alternative therapies as:
Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS)
Brain stimulation therapies like TMS can be an effective method to achieve relief from symptoms of depression for some. TMS is a non-invasive outpatient procedure that involves the placement of an insulated coil on the patient’s scalp over the Prefrontal cortex, which is the area of the brain thought to control mood regulation. A doctor triggers the coil to deliver painless magnetic pulses into the brain.
Studies have found TMS improves symptoms of depression in up to 60 percent of patients who did not receive sufficient relief from antidepressants. Side effects of the procedure are usually mild and may include headache, scalp discomfort, temporary twitching of facial muscles, and feeling lightheaded. These usually resolve soon after the session ends.
Many comprehensive studies have tested TMS and found it to be safe and effective for treatment-resistant depression. TMS was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 2008.
Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT)
Other brain stimulation therapies such as ECT are administered in a hospital setting, while the patient is under general anesthesia. ECT can work to treat mental health conditions such as treatment-resistant depression when other methods have failed. In use since the 1930’s, ECT remains an effective treatment for patients who have not found relief from other therapies.
The American Psychiatric Association says:
Extensive research has found ECT to be highly effective for the relief of major depression. Clinical evidence indicates that for individuals with uncomplicated, but severe major depression, ECT will produce substantial improvement in approximately 80 percent of patients. (ECT) is also used for other severe mental illnesses, such as bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.
During the procedure, the doctor delivers an electrical current to the brain via insulted electrodes, which trigger a small and brief seizure. This convulsive effect causes chemical changes in the brain that can reduce symptoms of depression as well as symptoms of other mood disorders, such as mania. Side effects of ECT may include confusion, nausea, headache, or other muscle aches, and generally resolve quickly.
Complementary Therapies and Alternative Treatments
Any health treatment not considered to be “standard” is referred to as a complimentary and alternative treatment.
There are many herbal supplements that are used to treat depression, such as St John’s Wort, 5 HDP Tryptophan (which is converted to serotonin in the body), folic acid such as vitamin B complex and many others.
While there are no studies done in the U.S. regarding the efficacy of these treatments, many studies have been done in Europe where herbal remedies are successfully used, and are more mainstream.
Alternatives for Mental Wellness
Some other complementary and alternative therapies for mental health problems, and also some mental disorders include things such as:
These combined approaches may increase feelings of well-being, reduce anxiety, ease symptoms of depression, and aid in relaxation.
Natural Alternative for Moderate Depression
Research has shown that adding the over-the-counter supplement SAM-e, which is a compound found naturally in the body, can be as effective as tricyclic antidepressants, in relieving symptoms of mild to moderate depression. Tricyclic drugs are the precursors to the more recent SSRI (serotonin re-uptake inhibitor) medications.
Lifestyle changes which include a routine of vigorous exercise – running, lifting weights – yoga, massage therapy, light therapy and breathing techniques can be used in conjunction with mainstream treatments, as well. Additionally, other methods such as mindfulness meditation – which simply means completely focusing on whatever you are currently doing – can also be employed to increase symptom relief.
What is the Best Alternative Treatment For Depression Symptoms?
While there is no “best” treatment for depression that works for everyone, antidepressant medication and 1:1 therapy are considered to be successful for the major portion of patients. However, using alternative treatments for depression in addition to the standard methods can enhance the outcomes of traditional approaches.
However, there are other treatments and methods of generating the brain chemicals that can improve our perceptions of our situation and enable us to achieve a more balanced outlook and view of ourselves. Some of these other treatments are used in standard Western medical practice, and some, such as meditation, have been used for centuries in other cultures.
A helpful source for alternative therapies is The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM). Their mission is to study complementary and alternative treatments, healing methods and practices by using scientific protocols and training complementary and alternative medicine researchers in order to release information backed by scientific research, to the public.
Treatment Resistant Depression
FDA approved in 2019, a complementary and alternative medicine for treatment resistant depression. It is the anesthetic drug Ketamine. Generally, ketamine is meant to be used when all other methods have been tried and failed. However, Ketamine treatment is not recommended for those individuals with a history of substance abuse.
How Can I Replace My Antidepressant Naturally?
Mental illness of any kind, especially major depression, is serious. However with the right combination of psychotherapy, antidepressants, and/or alternative approaches, it is possible to see significant relief. By combining efforts to improve our mental as well as our physical health, it is possible to relieve symptoms and increase quality of life.
Thankfully for some, there are a variety of methods to treat symptoms of depression without medication. Exercise combined with establishing social connections are two very effective methods of relieving depression symptoms fairly quickly.
Organizations such as SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) can enable sufferers to get connected to a support group. Other group activities such as Tai Chi, yoga, aerobics and many other group classes can also be an excellent way to connect with others. Check with your local community center for information and class schedules.
The Anxiety and Depression Association of America – ADAA
An organization whose mission is to improve the quality of life for those who suffer from anxiety and depression, the ADAA is a great resource for help and information on dealing with these and other mental health issues.
Their mission statement:
ADAA’s promise is to find new treatments and one day prevent and cure anxiety, depression, OCD, PTSD, and co-occurring disorders. ADAA improves the quality of life for those who suffer, through evidence-based educational resources, professional practice, and scientific research. ADAA brings together mental health professionals who lend their time and expertise to improve patient care by promoting the implementation of best practices and treatments across disciplines through continuing education and training and accelerating dissemination of research into practice.
How Do You Stop Depression Without Medication?
First of all, if you are currently taking an SSRI antidepressant medication – do not stop taking it without a physician’s approval and supervision. The result will of course be an abrupt return of anxiety, depression, headaches, and possibly suicidal ideation. Additionally, brain zaps or brain shivers can occur. These feel like short electric zaps to the brain, and can be disorienting as well as dangerous. Always talk to your doctor before beginning any additional treatments.
Of course, medications like SSRIs do help to treat depression in the major portion of patients, but do have negative side effects that some people find difficult to tolerate. Also, some people do not get results, and others require additional therapies. That is where herbal supplements, some of which are used in traditional Chinese medicine, can also be used in conjunction with traditional therapies.
The National Institute of Health has information on the findings of a randomized controlled trial with cancer patients suffering from depression. These are listed on the National Institute of Health website, National Library of Medicine page, and are encouraging. Their results page lists 38 botanicals and herbal supplements that were reviewed by more than 100 articles.
Turning Point Of Tampa
Turning Point of Tampa offers a full continuum of care with Residential Treatment, Day Treatment, Intensive Outpatient Treatment and inpatient detox for alcohol and drug addiction, as well as eating disorders and dual diagnosis. Turning Point of Tampa utilizes a 12-step based philosophy, combined with individual and group counseling.
Our mission statement:
To provide high quality and effective 12 step based addiction treatment programs specifically designed to be affordable. To continually increase addiction program effectiveness by evaluating ourselves, adapting to the needs of our clients and monitoring ongoing changes in the behavioral health industry. To respect the dignity of every employee, family member and client we serve. To instill The promise of hope for recovery within each client.
The medical Team at Turning Point of Tampa consists of:
Hardeep Singh, MD, FASAM, Medical Director
Dr. Hardeep Singh MD, is the Medical Director at Turning Point of Tampa. An adult psychiatrist by training, he has specialized in addictions treatment since 2013. Certified in Psychopharmacology and Addiction Medicine, Dr Singh has a unique understanding of the dynamics involved in Substance Use Disorders that are coupled with mental health issues. His medical degree is from King George’s Medical College and has been in practice for more than 20 years. Dr. Singh was named Doctor of the Year by Tampa Magazine in 2020, which was the third time he received that honor.
Ryan Estevez, MD, PHD, MPH, FASAM, Director of Psychiatric Services
Dr Estevez has earned several advanced degrees in health and behavioral sciences. Part of his job is to determine if there is some correlation between the addiction or eating disorder and other mental health issues that might be present. This step allows our team to tailor a treatment plan to meet the needs of each person. His degrees include a Bachelor’s Degree in psychology, and a Master’s Degree in both social psychology and public health.
Both Dr Singh and Dr Estevez are members of The American Society of Addiction Medicine. Founded in 1954, ASAM is a professional medical society representing over 6,000 physicians, clinicians and associated professionals in the field of addiction medicine.
Turning Point of Tampa has been offering Licensed Residential Treatment for Addiction, Eating Disorders and Dual Diagnosis in Tampa since 1987. We offer affordable treatment, and we are in network with most major insurance plans, with discounted rates for self-payment.
If you need help or know someone who does, please contact our admissions department today.