Prescription medications are one of the most popular methods for treating mental health conditions, but there are also other ways of treating depression without drugs or medication that can be just as effective for many people.
Struggling with bouts of depression and other mental health issues is part of the human experience. It is inevitable because we are complicated beings and life is sometimes hard.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) reports that 1 in 25 adults in the United States experience mental illness each year. Understanding just how common conditions like depression and anxiety are should come as a relief because it shows that we are not alone in our struggles.
It may also come as a surprise to people that there are ways to approach depression healing and recovery, as well as other treatment methods, that don’t necessarily involve taking medications.
What Causes Depression and Mental Illness?
Depression and mental illness are not generally caused by one factor. Instead, research suggests they are usually caused by a combination of the following:
- Lifestyle circumstances
- Biochemical processes in the brain
A traumatic event, a history of abuse, chronic stress at home or work can all play a large role in a person’s mental wellness where depression is concerned.
Very often, there are also substance abuse or addiction issues that can contribute to our mental wellness.
About half of all people who suffer from poor mental health will struggle with a substance use disorder, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).
The reverse is also true. A person struggling with addiction can develop substance-induced depression, anxiety or other mental health conditions.
Regardless of how it develops, it is not something anyone should feel shame about.
Though it may take some courage and discipline, even those that struggle with chronic conditions can lead productive, meaningful lives by taking an active role in acknowledging and protecting their own mental health.
For many people, prescription medications can help offer some relief for depression and mental health disorders, but they aren’t the only way to overcome the symptoms.
There are variety of other ways to successfully treat and manage depression and mental health concerns that don’t require drugs or prescription medications.
7 Ways of Treating Depression Without Drugs or Medication
Considering all of the ways of treating depression without drugs or medication, the seven listed below have found to be some of the most effective for wide range of people.
1. Maintain a Healthy Lifestyle Through Exercise, Diet, and Sleep
Burning the candle at both ends will take its toll on anyone, especially those already prone to mental health issues.
Getting regular exercise, whether it’s 30 minutes to an hour a day, eating a nutritious, low-glycemic diet rich in whole foods combined with fresh fruits, vegetables, lean meats and fish, and getting 7 to 8 hours of restful sleep each night provides the body with sufficient energy.
It also helps regulate the brain’s chemical makeup and processes so that it functions at peak performance.
Though it sounds simple, maintaining a healthy lifestyle takes planning and discipline, although the mental wellbeing rewards are well worth the effort.
Cultivating a healthy lifestyle actually encompasses three things – exercise, diet, and sleep – and together they form the three pillars of health.
Making small, positive changes to each can add up to huge gains in the way we feel, both physically and mentally.
2. Take Time to Be Quiet and Reflect With Meditation and Mindfulness
Meditation is the kind of word that can still intimidate people. However, there’s plenty of evidence this practice, whether it be mindful meditation, meditation during yoga or other meditative activities, helps quiet the mind.
Practicing meditation and mindfulness has shown to lower our blood pressure, heart rate, and have a profound effect on our mood.
Harvard Medical School has even reported on a study that found meditation to be as effective as antidepressants in treating depression.
3. Avoid Using Drugs or Alcohol as Coping Mechanisms
Avoiding drugs or alcohol as coping mechanisms could easily fit into “maintain a healthy lifestyle,” but it’s critical to point out how much they can alter the brain’s chemical makeup and worsen any symptoms associated with depression and mental illness.
Mind altering substances like drugs or alcohol can interrupt the brain’s normal release of neurotransmitters, like dopamine and serotonin, both of which are essential for controlling our mood and emotions.
Chronic substance use can actually lead to damaging, long-term changes in the brain’s chemical makeup and result in a lifetime struggle with depression.
Alcohol and drug addiction treatment can be effective in helping people manage their depression issues in a much more positive way.
Many people begin using alcohol or other substances as a way to numb depression, and sometimes it works in the short term. But over time, the symptoms become worse as the brain becomes addicted to using substances just to feel normal.
When this happens, depression and addiction combine to form a co-occurring disorder that requires dual diagnosis treatment to properly heal and recover.
4. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
Depression can often be linked to how a person thinks about themselves, their beliefs about the world around them and how that, in turn, affects their behavior, feelings and mood.
The focus of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is to change unhelpful patterns of thought, what psychiatrists sometimes refer to cognitive distortions.
By learning new thinking and coping strategies, many people discover their mood improves. They also find they are better able to regulate their emotions and make positive life choices they might not have made before using coping techniques learned through this type of therapy.
In addition to CBT, Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) and other types of psychotherapy can be just as helpful.
Many of these are used in conjunction with medication, but once the techniques are learned and put into practice, some people have found that they don’t require medication.
5. Neurofeedback Therapy
Neurofeedback Therapy has been used for treating a wide variety of mental health conditions such as ADHD, addiction, PTSD, and traumatic brain injuries.
While neurofeedback therapy for addiction has shown great results, it has also been successful for many people dealing with depression when medication has failed.
Neurofeedback is also known as EEG Biofeedback, and it works in conjunction with a computer to visually interpret electrical activity in the brain to retrain the brain waves.
It has shown promise for treatment-resistant depression when medications didn’t work for overcoming the symptoms.
6. Brainspotting Therapy
Brainspotting Therapy is a unique treatment modality that is excellent for addressing unresolved physical and emotional trauma that can lead to addiction, depression, and other mental health disorders.
It is similar to EMDR Therapy (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing), although Brainspotting Therapy is a much newer type of treatment method that isn’t in wide use yet, but has been embraced by mental health practitioners in recent years.
This is one of the treatment methods to watch in the years to come.
7. TMS Therapy for Depression (Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation)
TMS Therapy (Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation) is a painless, non-surgical method for treating depression. It is particularly useful for those who struggle with treatment resistant depression.
Similar to getting an MRI, TMS Therapy administers short, highly focused pulses of electromagnetic fields to areas of the brain known to regulate mood and issues of depression.
It is used successfully around the country by many depression treatment facilities because it delivers outstanding results for those who have not had success with prescription medication.
It’s important to note that not all Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation machines are the same, and some like the Magstim “Horizon Performance” TMS Machine offers higher performance features with additional benefits like the StimGuide 3D Positioning System.
Final Thoughts on Treating Depression Without Drugs or Medication
It goes without saying that everyone is different, and what works for one person battling mental illness may not work for another.
Historically, mental health doctors and therapists have considered medication combined with cognitive therapy to be the most successful form of treatment for depression.
Times are changing, and although medication is still considered one of the best ways to manage and treat the symptoms of depression, we’re finding that it’s not the only way for everyone.
Some people have depression symptoms that don’t respond well to medication, and new technologies like Neurofeedback and TMS Therapy have been used to offer alternative therapies for many of them.
What’s most important is to reach out and ask for help for anyone that is struggling with depression or any form of mental illness. Everyone deserves a chance to recover and there is never a need to prolong the suffering.
It can be comforting and reassuring for many to discover there are ways of treating depression without drugs or medication.
Dr. Elena Kapustina found her true calling and completed her PsyD in Clinical Psychology after earning her MBA and spending years working as the CFO for major corporations. She founded Iris Healing to holistically work with dual diagnosis patients in order to create a more sustainable recovery. From managing 1,000 employees to creating a top of the line treatment center, Dr. Kapustina harnesses her passion to create positive experiences for others.