Can I get out of depression without antidepressants? This is a question that many people ask. They search the web, talk to their doctors, and seek alternative treatments, hoping that they can recover on their own. The answer to this question is both simple and very complicated. It often depends on the severity and persistence of depressive symptoms.
Depression steals people. So far, despite the colossal investment of resources, there is still no reliably effective treatment. What we know for sure is that antidepressants just aren’t working.
According to Dr Stephen Ilardi, respected psychologist, university professor and author of ‘The Depression Cure: The 6-Step Program to Beat Depression Without Drugs’, antidepressants only have about a 50% success rate. Out of the people who do find relief, half of them will relapse, taking the actual recovery rate to 25%. Then there are the side effects, such as emotional blunting, weight gain and sexual dysfunction.
When antidepressants fail to deliver/cure, the hopelessness that lies at the heart of depression becomes even more brutal.
If we could immunise ourselves and the people we love against depression, we’d be lining up. There is no immunisation, but a growing body of research is finding that there are ways to protect ourselves from depression and alleviate any existing symptoms, particularly for mild to moderate depression.
Studies show that psychotherapy can be as effective as medication in improving depressive symptoms, and the benefits tend to persist after treatment ends. Therapy addresses the root causes of depression, such as unresolved grief, anxiety, early childhood trauma, negative thinking, poor self-image, loss of meaning, and relationship difficulties. Therapy can also help to improve coping skills and resilience.
What is depression?
Depression is one of the most common mood disorders in the United States and it has affected India also. It causes persistent sadness and limits a person’s ability to go about their daily activities. Depression makes you cynical and is deeply self-damaging. Depressed people only hurt themselves more. Depression can drain your energy, leaving you feeling empty and fatigued. Depression is a medical condition and not “laziness” or a temporary response to normal grief and/or discouragement.
Symptoms of Depression
A major depressive episode is defined as experiencing five or more of the following symptoms every day (or most days) for two weeks or more:
- Depressed or irritable mood
- Sleep problems (i.e., sleeping too much or too little; sleeping mainly during the day)
- Change in interests (i.e., not being interested in what you used to enjoy) or low motivation
- Excessive guilt or unrealistically low self-image
- Significantly low energy and/or change in self-care (i.e., not showering anymore)
- Significantly worse concentration (i.e., sharp decline in grades or performance)
- Changes in appetite (i.e., eating too much or too little)
- Agitation or severe anxiety/panic attacks
- Suicidal thoughts, plans or behaviors — including self-harm (i.e., intentionally cutting or burning ourself)
It’s important to remember that not everyone who is depressed is suicidal.
Why go for natural treatments?
Many people with mild to moderate depression, where sleep is adequate, can recover from depression with talk therapy and adjunctive strategies such as exercise, improved nutrition, mindfulness techniques, sunlight or light therapy, support from friends, family or a support group, and lifestyle changes.
Many medical problems, including vitamin deficiencies and hormone imbalances, can contribute to depression. Getting a thorough physical exam to rule out a medical cause is important.
If there is no clear medical cause, psychotherapy which focuses on improving self-care, reengaging in pleasurable and meaningful activities, and managing negative thoughts can be helpful in many cases. Working on issues that are impacting relationships with friends, loved ones, and family can also greatly relieve depression in some individuals. And for some, exploring and resolving unresolved grief or early childhood trauma may be important. Other approaches that can contribute to recovery include bodywork, acupuncture or other alternative medical approaches, meditation, yoga, or spiritual exploration.
How can we get out of depression naturally?
Though depression can make it difficult to muster the strength or desire to seek treatment.
However, there are steps we can take to help us feel more in control and improve our overall sense of well-being. These are:
When we are depressed, we may feel like we can’t accomplish anything. That makes us feel worse about ourself. To push back, set daily goals for ourself.
“Start very small,” Cook says. “Make your goal something that you can succeed at, like doing the dishes every other day.”
As we start to feel better, we can add more challenging daily goals.
2.Meaning: Find small ways to be of service to others.
Find personal meaning by serving something larger than ourself. Remember service doesn’t have to be big to count. Consider this, “Success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue… as the unintended side effect of one’s personal dedication to a course greater than oneself.” – Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning
3.Pleasant Events: Schedule pleasant activities or events.
Don’t wait for ourself to be “in the mood.” For example, give ourself permission for a 30-minute “vacation” or schedule a healthy hobby every day. Just remember to do these activities with the right attitude. Also, practice gratitude — take time to notice what went well today, not just what went wrong. Consider keeping a gratitude journal. Know that being grateful for our blessings doesn’t mean we have to discount our problems.
4.Relationships: Focus on people who lift us up.
Interact frequently with others that bring us up (not people that bring us down). While it’s OK to have some alone time, find a balance and don’t isolate yourself or the depression will linger.
5.Keep a journal
Keeping a journal is a powerful strategy for fighting depression. Writing down thoughts, feelings, and problems can allow individuals to identify patterns, triggers, and warning signs relating to their depression.
It can also give people perspective on particular issues and help them generate solutions.
Writing things down can be especially helpful before bed, especially if distressing thoughts are hindering sleep.
If people do not feel comfortable keeping a journal due to privacy concerns, they can destroy the paper afterward. Some people find the act of writing itself cathartic.
Another journaling option is to make a list of things for which a person is grateful. Researchers noted positive effects on the brain in people who kept such a list. People sometimes refer to this as keeping a gratitude journal.
- Practice mindfulness
Mindfulness involves focusing on the present moment. It stops people from concentrating on the past or worrying about the future.
Anyone can practice mindfulness at any time, but some people may find it helpful to begin by using an app or attending a class.
Recent research from 2019 links mindfulness practices with lower levels of depression and anxiety.
Pairing mindfulness with CBT in mindfulness-based cognitive therapy may prevent the recurrence of depressive episodes as effectively as maintenance antidepressant medications.
- Challenge negative thoughts.
In our fight against depression, a lot of the work is mental — changing how we think. When we are depressed, we leap to the worst possible conclusions.
The next time we are feeling terrible about ourselves, use logic as a natural depression treatment. We might feel like no one likes us, but is there real evidence for that? We might feel like the most worthless person on the planet, but is that really likely? It takes practice, but in time we can beat back those negative thoughts before they get out of control.
Psychotherapy, or talk therapy, can be highly effective for depression.
Depending on the type of therapy, it may help people:
- identify negative thoughts and replace them with positive or constructive ones
- find coping strategies
- learn problem-solving techniques
- set goals
- understand the effects of their life experiences and relationships
- ïdentify issues that contribute to depression
- deal with a crisis
Doctors commonly recommend cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) for depression. Research suggests that CBT can help treat depression, and it may be an effective alternative to medication in some cases.
Other types of therapy, including interpersonal therapy and psychodynamic therapy, can also help people with depression.
9.Reward your efforts
All goals are worthy of recognition, and all successes are worthy of celebration. When we achieve a goal, do our best to recognize it.
We may not feel like celebrating with a cake and confetti, but recognizing our own successes can be a very powerful weapon against depression’s negative weight.
The memory of a job well-done may be especially powerful against negative talk and overgeneralization.
Depression is a treatable mood disorder. People can recover from depressive episodes with lifestyle changes, coping strategies, talk therapy, or medications. For most people, a combination of these methods is necessary.
It is important to remember that, when it comes to treating depression, there is no prize for recovering “better” than another person. Recovering without therapy, without medication—literally “on your own”—does not earn you any awards. The prize is being emotionally healthy.
It is not always possible to prevent or avoid depression, but effective treatment is available, and some lifestyle choices can help manage symptoms and prevent a recurrence.
To maintain recovery from depression, it is essential to treat mental health in the same way as physical health — by working on it on an ongoing basis.
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