January 5, 2024

Navigating Depression Without Medication For A Brighter Tomorrow

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Medication in mental health treatment can help to reduce the impact symptoms have, get through a crisis, or stop mental health illnesses from coming back altogether. But for those who don’t want to take medication for depression, there are alternatives you can try. 

In this article, we talk about self-care strategies for depression, where to turn for help, and how to navigate depression without medication.  

How Do Antidepressants Work?

Depression rates have hit new highs, with 29% of U.S. adults having been diagnosed with depression in their lifetime. That’s a 10 percentage point increase from 2015, with depression rates rising fastest in women, young adults, and Black and Hispanic adults.   

Treatment for depression can include therapy, medication, and self-help strategies. Antidepressants are the most prescribed medication in the US, with selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) most frequently prescribed. More than 1 in 10 people in the United States take antidepressants. 

Antidepressants work by altering certain brain chemicals, including serotonin and dopamine. These chemicals regulate things like emotions and mood. There are different types of antidepressants, and they work differently to impact chemicals in the brain. 

Why Do Some People Not Want To Take Antidepressants? 

For moderate or severe depression, mental health professionals may recommend medication and therapy. For those with mild depression, treatment could begin with therapy alone. Depression is a mood disorder that can affect how you feel, behave, and think. It can lead to a number of physical, mental, and emotional problems. 

There are several reasons why some people may not want to take medication for depression or be hesitant, including: 

  • Concerns about side effects 
  • Fear of dependency 
  • Stigma or feeling judged 
  • Preference for non-pharmaceutical treatment 
  • Lack of understanding of how antidepressants work 

Ultimately, your choice of treatment for depression will depend on your personal preferences, the severity of the depression, and recommendations from your healthcare provider. 

Ready to choose your therapist?

Depression Without Medication: Self-Help Strategies 

It’s normal to experience ups and downs in life. But depression is much more than feeling down; it can make you feel completely crippled by sadness. You have no interest in doing things you previously enjoyed, and it can interfere with every part of your life. Self-help strategies for depression focus on maintaining a healthy mind and body so you can cope more effectively with the challenges that depression throws at you. 

1. Building A Support Network

Many studies indicate that emotional and online informational support can provide huge benefits to patients with depression. Research suggests that people with depression who have a larger social support network are more likely to improve their condition. At the same time, people who don’t have social support can fall into social isolation and notice a worsening in their condition. 

To develop a support system for mental health, you can tap into a few different areas to build your team: 

  • Online communities – there are plenty of online resources and communities where you can connect with like-minded individuals. The Anxiety and Depression Support Group has more than 80,000 subscribers, where people share their stories and connect with others. It’s completely anonymous and free to join. 
  • Support groups – join a support group with people going through a similar struggle. These can be online or in-person. 
  • Friends and family – talk to the people around you. Ideally, speak to those who are trustworthy and supportive, so you feel comfortable enough to open up about your problems and goals. 

2. Embracing Healthy Lifestyle Changes

A healthy lifestyle could play a role in lowering the risk of depression. In a nine-year study, researchers found that seven habits could reduce the risk of depression:

  • Alcohol consumption
  • Diet
  • Physical activity
  • Sleep
  • Smoking
  • Sedentary behavior
  • Social connection   

A healthy lifestyle includes a balanced diet, physical exercise, quality sleep, and social connection. Taking care of your physical health is essential to recovery and maintaining positive mental health. Regular exercise, proper sleep, and nutrition can help better equip you to deal with stress and life’s challenges. 

3. Engaging In Therapeutic Activities

Coping with depression can feel like an absolute battle. Alongside going to therapy and self-care, your therapist may recommend some activities that you can do at home, like: 

  • Mindfulness practices – mindfulness can help to manage stress and anxiety, which could improve depression symptoms.   
  • Journaling – writing down your thoughts can help shift your perspective and provide a space to explore how you feel without judgment. 
  • Reading – sometimes a good book can be a great distraction. Try a graphic novel, magazine, or your favorite book. 
  • Arts and crafts – creativity can help you to express yourself when words simply aren’t enough. Try an activity that requires your full attention, like pottery or embroidery. 

4. Seeking Professional Help And Therapy Options

Depression is a common mental disorder that you don’t need to go through alone. In the depths of depression, it can be impossible to know how to look after yourself and the steps you need to take to kickstart recovery. 

Speaking to a therapist who specializes in depression can help you determine your next steps on the road to recovery. There are different therapy options for depression, including: 

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) – helps individuals identify and change negative thought patterns and behaviors contributing to their depressive symptoms to help improve their well-being. 
  • Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) – combines cognitive-behavioral techniques with mindfulness and acceptance strategies to help individuals manage intense emotions, improve interpersonal relationships, and develop more effective coping skills.
  • Interpersonal psychotherapy – focuses on improving a person’s interpersonal relationships and addressing specific life events that may be contributing to their depressive symptoms. 

Psychotherapy for depression usually includes a blend of therapies based on your condition, preferences, and goals.  

Evidence suggests that combining medication and psychotherapy for depression may be more effective than either one alone. 

For example, say you have an individual who is experiencing persistent low mood and difficulty getting out of bed and engaging in therapy. A psychiatrist may prescribe antidepressants alongside therapy for severe and chronic depression for a few reasons: 

  1. Provide immediate symptom relief 
  2. Address potential biochemical imbalances
  3. Prevent relapse 
  4. Stabilize mood 
  5. Nurture a more effective response to therapy 

The decision to use medication alongside therapy is extremely personal and is a conversation to have with a qualified mental health professional. 

5. Exploring Self-Help Resources And Techniques

There are lots of resources with information on depression and self-help tools that allow you to learn more about the condition and manage your symptoms, including: 

You can also ring phone numbers for advice, regardless of where you live. The non-profit Help Guide has a helpful tool for finding mental health helplines that show helplines based on where you are and the help you need. 

Taking Steps Towards Recovery 

Depression can affect people differently. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution for treating depression, and often, it takes time and a trial-and-error approach. Finding the right therapist you gel with and moving your body in the way that works for you takes time. Be patient and open to change and experimentation. It’s normal for recovery to have ups and downs, but you don’t need to go through it alone. 

Take the first step towards a healthier you; book your appointment with Thriving Center of Psychology today, and let’s embark on this journey together. We have offices nationwide in most major cities, including LA, Miami, and NYC.  

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