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  • Writer's pictureFiona Van Zandt

What are Effective Ways to Treat Depression without Medication?



Depression is a serious mental health condition that affects people of all backgrounds, and is the most common mental health disorder in the world. As of 2020, an estimated 21 million adults in the United States have suffered at least one major depressive episode. People of any age

group can experience depression, but the average age of onset for depression is between ages 35 and 40. While medication can be an effective treatment option, there are a plethora of non-medication approaches that can help alleviate depression symptoms. It is always best to consult your healthcare provider to come up with a treatment plan that fits your unique situation. Below are some non-medication strategies for treating depression that show promising results.


1. Therapy for Depression

One of the most effective ways to treat depression without medication is through psychotherapy, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT is a psycho-social intervention that aims to reduce symptoms of various mental health conditions, including depression. CBT focuses on

changing negative thought patterns and behaviors that contribute to depression and works to help people take control of their perception of circumstances they may face. Other therapeutic modalities such as Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) can also be effective in the treatment of depression.


2. Lifestyle Changes

Making shifts in lifestyle habits may have a positive effect on depressive symptoms. Regular exercise has been shown to boost mood and improve overall mental health. Exercise works to combat depression symptoms by increasing endorphins. Research has suggested that participating in aerobic exercise, such as swimming, cycling, and walking, has shown a significant decrease in depression symptoms in some cases.


3. Adding Nutrients to your Diet

Although diet alone will not cure depression, it can be a helpful part of an overall treatment plan. There is some evidence to suggest eating anti-inflammatory foods can help ward off depressive symptoms. Foods that are rich in vitamins C and E may produce this effect. These include blueberries, broccoli, oranges, potatoes, strawberries, and nuts and seeds.


3. Getting Good Sleep

There is a strong link between sleep and depression. More than half of people with a depressive disorder struggle with insomnia which causes great distress and decreases quality of life. Getting enough sleep and practicing relaxation techniques, such as meditation or deep breathing, can help reduce symptoms of depression. Some habits to improve your sleep can include creating a consistent sleep routine, ensuring your room is dark, quiet and cool, and eliminating the use of screens before bedtime. Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) may also help improve sleep, so finding a therapist trained in DBT may be a good idea if you need formal support.


While these approaches may take time and effort to implement, they offer a more holistic approach to treating depression for people who do not wish to use medication. There is no singular cure or method to reduce depression symptoms that works for everyone, so finding what is right for you is important. In some cases of severe depression, medication may be necessary.


If you are in crisis, please dial 988 on your phone or text HOME to 741741 to speak with a trained counselor.

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