4 Antidepressant Alternatives From a Psychiatrist
Antidepressants are effective in treating various types of depression. If a patient does not want to take prescription medication, a psychiatrist can recommend an antidepressant alternative. There is no shame in taking medication, but there is also no shame in wanting to go a different route.
Here are four common antidepressant alternatives as recommended by a psychiatrist.
Although many people with depression take medication and see a therapist, taking medication is not a requirement. Cognitive behavioral therapy, or “CBT,” has proven effective for treating depression, even without the use of antidepressants. This approach focuses on identifying and changing negative thought patterns. There are many subtypes of CBT, such as acceptance and commitment therapy, or “ACT,” and dialectical behavior therapy, or “DBT.”
People with depression may also benefit from alternative types of therapy, such as music therapy, art therapy, and ecotherapy. Creative therapies can be especially helpful to people who have difficulty talking about their feelings. These therapies may complement CBT.
Peer support groups
Depression is isolating. Joining a peer support group can help combat this loneliness. It can also help the patient connect with other people struggling with depression at the same stage of life. There are youth support groups, student support groups, and adult support groups. Depending on the area, there may be specialized depression support groups for mothers dealing with postpartum depression, LGBTQ+ adults with clinical depression, or people who have depression and another mental health disorder.
Support groups are an affordable alternative or supplement to therapy. Sometimes, therapists will run support groups and charge a fee for their professional guidance. However, free support groups are a great resource and should not be overlooked.
Mindfulness is an effective and affordable antidepressant alternative. Practicing mindfulness simply means paying attention to the present moment without judgment and recognizing one’s thoughts, feelings, and physical sensations. Focusing on the present can help take one’s mind off the past and stop negative thought spirals. According to studies published in the National Library of Medicine and The Lancet, practicing mindfulness can both reduce symptoms of depression and prevent relapses.
Mindfulness-based therapies are beneficial for those who want a more structured treatment plan. Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy, or “MBCT,” has helped people with a range of anxiety and mood disorders, including major depressive disorder and treatment-resistant depression. MBCT typically combines CBT, mindfulness, and meditation.
Brain stimulation therapies
In a clinical setting, brain stimulation is a possible option after a patient’s depression has not responded to therapy, medication, or other treatments. Patients who encounter issues with antidepressants, such as those who experience negative side effects, often turn to brain stimulation therapy as an alternative treatment. The goal is to improve symptoms by targeting different areas of the brain with currents of electricity and magnets.
Types of brain stimulation therapy
There are many types of brain stimulation therapy, including but not limited to:
Transcranial magnetic stimulation, or “TMS,” is minimally invasive. An electromagnetic coil is placed on the head, giving off magnetic pulses to a targeted area of the brain.
Electroconvulsive therapy, or “ECT,” is also a minimally invasive treatment in which small electric currents are sent through the brain, causing a brief seizure. Anesthesia is used to ensure the patient does not feel pain during the procedure.
Deep brain stimulation, or “DBS,” requires surgery. Electrodes are implanted into the brain and connected to a pulse generator implanted in the chest.
Patients may be discouraged from trying brain stimulation therapy due to the misrepresentation of it in movies and TV. Rest assured that those are not accurate portrayals. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, ECT has helped improve symptoms in 70 to 90% of the patients who have used it to target their depression.
Healthy lifestyle changes
While it will not cure depression, exercise can be a valuable part of depression treatment. Exercising produces endorphins, which can help boost one’s mood. Additionally, being out of shape can lead to a range of health problems that may negatively impact mood, from back pain and headaches to serious health conditions like diabetes.
Eliminating any role that poor physical health has in mental health problems can make psychological treatment more effective. Other healthy lifestyle changes that may improve one’s depression include drinking less alcohol and caffeine, eating nourishing food, and having a consistent sleep schedule.
Find the right antidepressant alternative
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, about 16 million adults struggle with depression in the U.S. Antidepressants are effective but far from the only treatment option. Consult our psychiatrist to learn more about antidepressant alternatives.
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