Depression Treatment: Drug-Free Approaches to Address This Disorder

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Story at-a-glance

  • Antidepressants known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), known by brand names such as Zoloft, Paxil, Lexapro and Celexa, were actually found to be linked to symptoms of mania or bipolar disorder
  • Studies have consistently shown that having low levels of vitamin D has a significant effect on a person’s mental health

The first line of treatment that most conventional physicians and so-called “experts” would advise for depressed individuals is to take antidepressants. In fact, these medications are among the most commonly prescribed drugs today (along with antibiotics) and are taken by more than 1 in 8 Americans.1

But there’s mounting evidence that antidepressants are not as effective as originally marketed. New studies have shown that in many instances not only are antidepressants no more effective than placebo pills for depressed individuals,2 but they also come with a long list of side effects that can further cause your health to spiral downward.

Why Antidepressants Can Do More Harm Than Good

Antidepressants known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), known by brand names such as Zoloft, Paxil, Lexapro and Celexa, were actually found to be linked to symptoms of mania or bipolar disorder.3 Women who took SSRIs during the second and/or third trimester of their pregnancy were also found to give birth to children who were predisposed to autism spectrum disorder (ASD).4

What’s worse, there is compelling evidence that shows that SSRIs may actually be contributing to suicide. SSRIstories.com is a website that archives thousands of credible and published reports on how SSRIs and other antidepressants are a significant risk factor in suicides and other violent behavior. The stories are quite disturbing, detailing dangerous and violent actions by people on SSRIs.5

Even U.S. soldiers fall victim to the dangerous effects of antidepressants. During the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, the rate of suicide in troops was alarmingly high.6 The number of suicides was said to be higher than the number of combat fatalities themselves,7 and the majority of these rates were among soldiers who had never even deployed.8 These soldiers were given prescriptions for different antidepressants, including Prozac and Zoloft.9

These findings make it clear that antidepressants should never be used to address depression. Instead of taking these medications, you should turn to natural remedies and lifestyle changes to alleviate this disorder.

Changing Your Lifestyle May Help You in Coping With Depression

Sometimes, a few lifestyle tweaks may be all that’s needed to help bring your mood and mental health back to optimal condition. If you want to learn how to deal with or beat depression naturally, you can start by implementing these basic lifestyle changes:

Address your vitamin D deficiency. Studies have consistently shown that having low levels of vitamin D has a significant effect on a person’s mental health.10 If you’re struggling with depression, it may be helpful to have your vitamin D level checked, so you can address any insufficiency or deficiency.

Sunlight exposure is the best way to optimize your levels, but if that’s not possible, vitamin D3 supplementation is a viable alternative. Just keep in mind that if you take a vitamin D3 supplement, you need to take magnesium and vitamin K2, since these nutrients work in tandem.

Get enough exercise. Exercise may help treat mild to moderate depression without any damaging side effects. Maintaining an exercise schedule can also prevent you from suffering a relapse.11

Eat healthy. Consuming well-balanced meals every day will help minimize your mood swings and give you enough energy. Remember to consume a low-sugar, non-GMO diet that is instead rich in healthy omega-3 fats and probiotics (either from fermented foods or a high-quality probiotic supplement).

Get enough sleep. Depriving yourself of sleep can worsen your sadness, irritability, moodiness and fatigue. Aside from aiming for seven to nine hours of sleep per night, make it a point to practice healthy sleep habits, such as removing EMF-emitting gadgets from your bedroom, sleeping in total darkness and setting a sleep schedule.

Reduce your stress. Excessive stress can worsen depression and put you at risk of relapse. Eliminate the stress triggers in your life and employ stress-relieving techniques like meditation and the Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) to keep you happy and worry-free.

Herbs, Nutritional Supplements and Other Safer Remedies

There are herbs and other nutrients that have been used for thousands of years to help ward off mild to moderate depression. These act as mood boosters and help eliminate chronic hopelessness and sadness. Here are some natural cures for depression that you can try — they are no doubt much safer than conventional medications:12,13

St. John’s wort — Native to western Asia, Europe and northern Africa, St. John’s wort has been linked to increased levels of serotonin, the “feel-good” hormone in the brain. One 2008 review of 29 studies conducted on this plant found that it was just as effective as antidepressants in the treatment of mild to moderate depression — but without the negative effects.14 This herb interacts with certain medications, however, so consult a physician prior to using it.

Zinc — A study published in Biological Psychiatry found that having low levels of this nutrient in the blood is linked to depression, so taking a high-quality zinc supplement may be an essential strategy in warding off this disorder.15 One study found that just taking 25 milligrams of zinc supplement helped ease depression symptoms.16 This nutrient can also increase the levels of omega-3 fats in your body.

Saffron — Ingesting the stigma (the end of the flower’s rod-like stem) may be effective in treating mild to moderate depression, according to a study published in Alternative Medicine Review.17

S-adenosylmethionine (SAM-e) — It works like a synthetic version of the natural mood-boosting chemicals in your body.18 Be careful not to take too much, though, as it can lead to upset stomach and constipation.

5-Hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) — Taking this may help improve your serotonin levels. In fact, when your body sets about manufacturing serotonin, it first produces 5-HTP. There is also evidence suggesting that it may even outperform a placebo when it comes to providing relief from depression.19

Folate — People with depression have been found to have low levels of folic acid, its synthetic version, in their body. You can get folate naturally from foods like lentils, beans, avocado, sunflower seeds and dark leafy greens.20

AromatherapyEssential oils have been used for thousands of years to help relieve different ailments and aches. Now studies are determining its potential in helping alleviate depression and other mood disorders.

One study found that inhaling citrus fragrances can help reduce doses in people taking antidepressants, and to promote normal neuroendocrine levels and immune function.21 Meanwhile, cancer hospice patients who inhaled lavender oil through a humidifier experienced positive changes in anxiety, depression, blood pressure levels and pain. They also had a better sense of well-being.22

You can also try acupuncture for your depression. One study found this traditional Chinese practice may be as effective as antidepressants (yet safer). A separate study also found that it may help treat the side effects of these medications.23

If All Else Fails, Seek a Professional and Trustworthy Therapist

If none of the strategies above have worked in battling your depression, then it may be best for you to seek a trustworthy mental health specialist as your next step for treatment. He or she will help determine the best method to treat your depression. The three most common types of depression counseling are cognitive behavioral therapy, psychodynamic therapy and interpersonal therapy.

By working with a qualified therapist, you will learn practical techniques on how to reframe negative thoughts and adapt behavioral skills to combat this disorder. You may also learn the root of your depression, allowing you to understand how you feel the negative emotions, what the triggers are and how you can stay healthy.

Just remember one thing: Make sure that you truly connect with your therapist. He or she should be caring and supportive, and must readily guide you without any hesitation to help you overcome your depression, leading you toward recovery.24

MORE ABOUT DEPRESSION

Depression: Introduction

What is Depression?

Depression in Men and Women

Childhood Depression

Depression During Pregnancy

Depression Duration

Depression Causes

Types of Depression

Depression Symptoms

Depression Effects

Depression Treatment

Depression Prevention

Depression Diet

Postpartum Depression

Manic Bipolar Depression

Major Depressive Disorder

Depression Test

Chronic Depression

Seasonal Depression

Psychotic Depression

Depression FAQ

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Depression Effects

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Depression Prevention

[+]Sources and References [-]Sources and References

  • 1 New York Times, Review: In ‘Ordinarily Well,’ Peter D. Kramer Goes to the Antidepressant Ramparts
  • 2 PLOS Medicine February 26, 2008
  • 3 BMJ Open December 14, 2015
  • 4 JAMA Pediatrics December 14, 2015
  • 5 SSRI Stories
  • 6 Mayo Clin Proc. 2012 Sep; 87(9): 871–878.
  • 7 Mercury News, August 12, 2016
  • 8 LA Times, January 14, 2015
  • 9 P T. 2012 Jan; 37(1): 32–38.
  • 10 American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry December 2006; 14(12): 1032-1040
  • 11 Helpguide.org, The Mental Health Benefits of Exercise
  • 12 Mayo Clinic, July 2015
  • 13 Everyday Health, Aromatherapy: A Natural Remedy for Depression, June, 17, 2015
  • 14 Cochrane, St. John's Wort for Treating Depression, October 8, 2008
  • 15 Biological Psychiatry, 2013; 74(12): 872 - 878
  • 16 Nutritional Neuroscience, Feb 2014 ;17(2):65-71
  • 17 Alternative Medicine Review, March 2011;16(1):40-9
  • 18 Mayo Clinic, Depression (Major Depressive Disorder), July 28, 2015
  • 19 Orvosi Hetilap 2011 Sep 11;152(37):1477-85
  • 20 BioMed Research International, 2015;2015:521481
  • 21 Neuroimmunomodulation, May-Jun 1995;2(3):174-80
  • 22 American Journal of Hospice Palliative Care. Nov-Dec 2002;19(6):381-6
  • 23 Scientific American, “Can Acupuncture Treat Depression?” July 1, 2014
  • 24 Helpguide.org, Depression Treatment