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How to Treat Depression Without Medication

How to Treat Depression Without Medication

Published: July 21, 2022

While anti-depressants can effectively treat depression, they don't work for everyone. Fortunately, there is a range of evidence-based alternative treatment methods founded on reliable and extensive scientific research proven to improve depression symptoms and overall well-being. This blog offers some information on TMS therapy, talk therapy, complementary therapies, and lifestyle changes that support long-term recovery from depression.

What Is Major Depression?

Major depression is a mental health condition characterized by periods of persistent low mood and loss of interest in activities that significantly affect your daily life. It is one of the most common mental health disorders, affecting around 4.7% of adults in the United States. Depression is a serious condition, but with effective depression treatment, you can manage symptoms and recover from the illness.

How Does Antidepressant Medication Work?

The most common antidepressant medications are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI). They work by increasing the availability of serotonin in the brain. Seratonin is a natural hormone our body produces that acts as a chemical messenger, regulating essential functions like mood, sleep, and appetite. Having balanced levels of serotonin is associated with good mental health, while low levels of serotonin may underlie low mood.

However, while antidepressant medications may be effective in treating depression, they do not work for everyone. They are more likely to work for people living with severe or moderate depression than mild depression. They can also result in a range of uncomfortable, systematic side effects such as weight gain and sexual dysfunction that may not be tolerated. Moreover, a course of antidepressant medication is usually relatively long, with most people taking antidepressants for one to two years to reduce the chance of relapse.

Can Major Depression be Treated Without Medication?

Yes - there is a range of evidence-based treatments for major depression that do not involve medication. Anti-depressant medications are only effective in around 40-60% of people and there has been extensive research into alternative treatment options. Even for people who take antidepressant medications, they do not usually represent a long-term solution, and many participate in other types of treatment alongside.

Other evidence-based treatments for major depressive disorder include:

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy
  • Transcranial magnetic stimulation
  • Complementary therapies like yoga and mindfulness meditation

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy:

Cognitive-behavioral therapy is a type of talking therapy focusing on interactions between our thoughts and behaviors. It aims to identify harmful thinking and behavioral patterns and turn them into more positive ones. CBT focuses on the present, helping you to make real-time changes to improve symptoms of depression and lead to better overall well-being.

During CBT sessions, your therapist may offer helpful tips and work with you to develop positive coping skills. CBT can lead to improved mental well-being that lasts beyond the end of treatment.

Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation Therapy

Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) therapy is an innovative depression treatment that uses gentle magnetic waves to stimulate certain areas of brain cells, leading to pronounced changes in mood and behavior.

Scientific research suggests that people living with depression may have reduced brain activity in the prefrontal dorsolateral cortex, an area of the brain involved in regulating mood. TMS uses an electromagnetic coil to generate a magnetic field that passes painlessly through the client's scalp, inducing small electrical currents in the target brain cells and stimulating neuronal activity.

TMS is a safe and painless therapy for treating depression with few side effects. The most common side effects are temporary mild headaches and scalp discomfort which tend to reduce throughout treatment. In 2008, the FDA cleared TMS as an effective treatment for treatment-resistant major depressive disorder.

A typical course of TMS involves daily sessions over 4-6 weeks, followed by a few weeks of tapering of sessions. It's a non-invasive procedure and you remain conscious throughout the sessions, communicating with another therapist throughout. You can return to normal activities immediately afterward and drive to and from the treatment center.

TMS has high success rates, including among those with severe depression. Studies have found that a course of TMS can improve depressive symptoms. TMS treatment can produce a positive response at least a year after the end of a treatment course and may be sustained through shorter maintenance treatments.

Complementary Therapies

Complementary therapies focus on mind-body healing to promote long-term well-being. They may include nutritional supplements, yoga, mediation, acupuncture, and other holistic approaches.

Complementary therapies are becoming increasingly common, with up to 40% of people living with depression now participating in some kind of holistic treatment alongside more traditional methods. They aim to tap into natural ways to improve our mood, by affecting chemical balances, our central nervous system, and other mind-body systems.

What Vitamin is a Natural Antidepressant?

Our guts are our 'second brains', and what we eat can have a direct effect on how we feel. We use nutrients from food to produce hormones such as serotonin that regulate mood and support other essential functions. We need to eat the right things to give our bodies the ingredients to make these hormones and maintain good physical and mental health.

Vitamins, minerals, and herbal medicines like Vitamin D, B vitamins, omega 3 fatty acids, and St. John's Wart may all help to improve depression symptoms. However, while many studies support their effectiveness, more research is needed before they are offered as universal depression treatments.

How Can I Increase Serotonin Levels Naturally?

You can naturally increase serotonin levels through regular exercise, which may increase the release and synthesis of serotonin in the brain. Seratonin production is also associated with bright light and hours of sunlight - so spending time outside or in natural light may help to raise your serotonin levels and your mood.

Eating a balanced diet can also aid the production of serotonin in your gut, ensuring your body receives the amino acids it requires to build the hormone. In general, a healthy body supports a healthy mind, and looking after yourself helps to maintain balanced levels of serotonin and other brain chemicals.

Depression Treatment at GIA Miami

GIA Miami offers the most advanced evidence-based treatment methods for depression, tailored to your unique needs. We base our programs on the forefront of mental wellness research, ensuring you receive the very best treatment available.

Our treatment options include TMS therapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy, dialectical behavioral therapy, group therapy, couples therapy, and telehealth.

Our expert team includes pioneers in TMS therapy, ready to apply their expert knowledge to your recovery program. Our founder, Dr. Bonci, is a world leader in the field, co-authoring groundbreaking research into the use of TMS therapy for addiction and other mental health conditions. We match our unequaled expertise with modern facilities and state-of-the-art equipment to deliver an exceptional treatment experience.

At GIA Miami, we understand that some people can't take a total break from their lives to attend treatment. Our outpatient programs ensure recovery is as accessible as possible and we work with you to plan your treatment around your daily schedule.

If you're living with depression or another mental health condition, contact us today. We offer the most advanced and effective methods for treating depression to give you the best chance of reaching your recovery goals. At GIA, you're in the best hands.

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