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3 min read

Can Depression Be Treated Without Medication?

A woman with depression on a beach

Depression is one of the more common mental health problems, diagnosed in approximately one out of five Americans at some point in their lives. Treating depression can include the use of certain antidepressant medications such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), and other medications, and they can in many cases be, quite literally, life-saving.

While some forms of severe depression may require mediations to treat depression, there are other forms that may be managed without medication, through implementing healthy lifestyle changes, alternative treatments, and talk therapy.

Symptoms of Depression

Depression symptoms can look different depending on who you are. It can be important to recognize these symptoms and get a diagnosis from a mental health professional so that you don't have to feel like you have to fight depression alone. The following are common depression symptoms:

  • Feelings of sadness
  • Feeling hopeless
  • Poor sleep
  • Changes in appetite (along with weight gain or weight loss)
  • Lack of focus

Receiving a depression diagnosis can help you better understand your feelings, and work with a mental health professional on managing your symptoms.

Non-Medication Options for Depression Treatment

While antidepressants can be an effective way to improve symptoms, some have a problem with the common side effects that can occur with use. Many may overcome depression without medication by implementing certain strategies, including participation in talk therapy and lifestyle change.

Lifestyle Changes That Can Help Manage Major Depression

The following are evidence based lifestyle habits that can be used to help manage depression without medication.

Regular Exercise

Regular physical activity can lead to better physical health as well as improved mental well being. Research shows just getting around half an hour a day of moderate exercise can offer benefits. Find something you enjoy doing to stay consistent. This can mean walking, weight lifting, a group dance class, yoga, or playing with your kids.

Improve Your Sleep Quality

Mental health can be negatively impacted when sleep quality is poor. Some ways you can improve sleep include:

  • Cutting back on caffeine, especially in the afternoon hours and beyond
  • Cutting back on alcohol
  • Keeping your bedroom dark, cool, and quiet
  • Avoiding screens an hour before bedtime
  • Waking up and going to sleep at the same time every day

Getting Outside

Numerous studies have shown that being in a green, outdoor environment (popularly known as "forest bathing"), can improve certain health markers, including a decrease in cortisol, lowered blood pressure, and a decrease in heart rate and breathing. Getting outside also adds the bonus of getting vitamin D from the sun—a common way to boost mood. You may also ask your doctor about light therapy, especially in the winter months.

Healthy Diet

Eating habits can also affect certain mood disorders. A well-balanced diet rich in nutrients can be a protective factor for mental health. Certain foods have also been found to be especially beneficial to improving emotional well being, including omega 3 fatty acids found in fish and nuts, and probiotics found in yogurt and other fermented foods.

Mindfulness Exercises

Just a few minutes of progressive muscle relaxation or breathing exercises can help to manage stress and improve the symptoms of moderate depression. An added bonus may be a better quality sleep if done before bed.

Social Connections

We can all use support sometimes, and having a close group of friends or family members can help you when it comes to overcoming depression symptoms. Mental illness thrives where there is loneliness, so reach out to people who care.

This may be difficult for those who are experiencing severe depression, as one of the symptoms can be guilt and avoiding others. However, treating depression is not something that should be done alone. You may also look for a support group in your area to connect with others who can understand what you're going through.

Herbal Supplements and Other Alternative Treatments

There are some alternative treatments you can use for treating depression without medication. Some research shows that certain supplements may be effective at treating depression symptoms, such as St. John's wort, SAM-e, or 5-HTP. Omega 3 fatty acids may also be taken as a supplement, and have shown some efficacy in decreasing symptoms of depression. If you do decide to take any of these supplements, talk to your medical provider first, as they can interact with certain medications.

Other treatments, such as light therapy, music therapy, and, in cases of treatment resistant depression, electroconvulsive therapy, can be effective at improving symptoms. Note that not all “treatments” are approved by the mental health professional community, so talk to a doctor or therapist before starting any new treatment.

Change Your Thoughts with Talk Therapy

One of the most important ways to treat depression without medication is participating in talk therapy with a licensed professional. A therapist can help identify and shift negative thinking patterns, help you process any past trauma, and offer support for consistent healthy lifestyle changes that can promote both mental and physical health.

Certain forms of treatment resistant depression may require medication or other options (such as a combination of several medical and therapeutic interventions) to preserve quality of life or continuation of life itself. However, in most cases, a combination of therapy and healthy lifestyle habits can be sufficient to help those who experience depression.

Treating Symptoms of Depression Without Medication in Brooklyn

If you experience symptoms of depression or bipolar disorder but are interested in treating them without medication, talk therapy can be one of the most effective solutions.

At Williamsburg Therapy Group, our team of doctoral-level psychotherapists offers evidence-based therapeutic approaches in Brooklyn to support mental health through healing past trauma and building a toolbox of positive coping skills and healthy habits.

Give us a call today and our patient coordinator will help you find the right therapist to offer emotional support and help you manage your depression treatment in a positive way. 

Book a Therapy Session in Brooklyn Today

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