Alternative Medications & Therapies

There are multiple different ways to deal with depression and anxiety. This includes alternative medications and therapies. For mild depression, often herbal supplements are easier and more capable of helping than medication.

There are many different types of herbal supplements and remedies. I am only going to discuss three in this post. These would be St. John’s Wort, Omega-3 fatty acids and SAMe. St. John’s Wort is one of the most popular herbal supplements to treat depression. “In 2000, the FDA issued a Public Health Advisory letter stating that the herb may interfere with certain medications used to treat heart disease, depression, seizures, certain cancers, and those used to prevent organ transplant rejection. The herb also may interfere with the effectiveness of oral contraceptives. Consult with your doctor before taking any herbal supplement” (NIMH)1. Omega-3 fatty acids are found in nuts, flaxseed and oil as well as cold-water fish. More research is needed to determine if Omega-3 fatty acids can help with depression however, just a note that it may interact with other medications. SAMe is a synthetic form of a chemical occurring naturally in the body. More research is also needed to see how SAMe effects depression, however it should be taken carefully by people with bipolar disorder as it may trigger mania.

There are also different types of alternative therapies. These include expressive or creative arts therapy, dance & movement therapy, music therapy, animal-assisted therapy and light therapies. These alternatives can help those with mild to severe depression and are often used in conjunction with talk therapies.

Expressive or creative arts therapy is when a patient used expressive acts such as writing, art, or music to help themselves emotionally. Art therapy encourages patients to express their feelings through the use of artistic materials like paint, markers or pencils. Expressive therapy allows a person to express themselves emotionally, through a helpful medium and allows them to find coping skills and deal with traumatic events while healing. Dance and movement therapy or DMT follows the same theory as expressive or creative arts therapy. The patient uses dance and movement to express their feelings and thoughts about their life situations. DMT is based on the idea that the body and mind are interconnected and that movement can affect their minds and thoughts.

Music therapy is something people use daily without realizing it. Please click here to read more about music and its affect on a person’s mood. Music is often used to aid in meditation and relaxation. Often patients will either listen to music that they relate to or make music to explore ways of expressing oneself.

Animal-assisted therapy includes working with various animals to help patients cope with their wishes and develop ways to communicate. Companion animals are often used in hospitals, nursing humans and psychiatric wards to bring comfort and joy to those with despair. There are claims that working with animals has a physiological benefit through increased level of activity and the act of caring for another. Interacting with animals is believed to improve confidence and increase acceptance and empathy. I will be discussing the use of Emotional Support Animals in a future post.

Light therapy is most often used to treat seasonal affective disorder or SAD, which is a form of depression that occurs during the winter months. Light therapy is the use of a full spectrum light in either a lamp or a box, that a person uses for periods of time. This can help those who struggle when daylight is at its shortest.

Aromatherapy is also used as a self-sooth or de-stress technique. Incense, candles and essential oils are all used for aromatherapy. Other complementary or alternative treatments for depression are meditation, yoga, spirituality, exercise and acupuncture. I will be discussing meditation in a future post.

These are just some of the alternative and complementary medications and therapies that can be used to treat depression, however these will not replace traditional therapy and medications for moderate to severe mental illnesses. These therapies can be used in conjunction with modern medicine to lessen the affects of your disease.

Anxiety and Depression Association of America
National Institute of Mental Health
National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health
Mayo Clinic

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