If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. We all are familiar with that little ditty we grew up with. It was penned, no doubt, to help inspire hope and also fuel a solid work ethic. But sometimes, no matter how many times we try to overcome depression with antidepressants as the core treatment method, we do not ever seem to succeed in alleviating the suffering. Our doctor may have us trial numerous medications, or tweaked the dosages multiple times, only to inform us that what we have is called treatment-resistant depression.
Treatment-resistant depression does not only pertain to being unresponsive to the drugs. It also includes those patients who gave the antidepressants a valiant effort only to discontinue the drug therapy due to the oppressive side effects. In other words, these individuals were not able to remain on the medication long enough to even see if it worked. So, they, too, fall into the treatment-resistant camp.
So what does a person do if they are told they are unresponsive to antidepressants? Hearing this can be very demoralizing, especially considering the length of time invested in trialing the different drugs, only to be left feeling frustrated and defeated. But there are some very promising natural antidepressant options to consider, so keep reading!
Depression is Complicated
When experiencing 5 or more of the following symptoms for more than two weeks, it is important to seek an evaluation:
- Loss of interest in usual hobbies or activities
- Persistent sadness, hopelessness, despair
- Difficulty concentrating or making decisions
- Slowed thinking and movements
- Sudden weight gain or loss
- Change in sleep patterns
- Feelings of inappropriate guilt or shame
- Thoughts of suicide
Depression is such a complex mental health disorder that treating it can be akin to throwing darts while blindfolded. Each individual person may have a unique reason for having developed a depressive disorder. Known factors that can play a part include family history, brain chemistry, personality traits, medical conditions, adverse life events, and substance abuse. Those are only the known factors…science has yet to pin down the exact causes of depression.
Because a person’s depression may be caused by any number of factors, it might be wise to employ multiple types of treatment to hopefully conquer it. Antidepressants can make a significant improvement in symptoms in 50%-70% of patients who are treated with these drugs. But what should the remainder of folks, those diagnosed as treatment resistant, try?
Different Types of Natural Antidepressants for Depression Treatment
When considering natural antidepressants for overcoming major depressive disorder, it is important to discuss each option with a mental health practitioner, such as a psychiatrist. Not all of the natural options are suited for everyone, so getting some direction from the doctor will help save time and frustration.
Some of the most effective alternative treatment options for depression include:
Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) has captured the attention of the psychiatric community for its safety and efficacy as a natural antidepressant in helping individuals with treatment-resistant depression. TMS is a neuromodulation therapy that uses magnetic energy similar to the technology used in an MRI to alter brain neurons.
TMS therapy involves the use of powerful magnetic fields that are harnessed and distributed through a coil that is placed over the patient’s scalp. The coil is positioned over the left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, where the brain’s limbic system is located. The limbic system is the region that is associated with mood regulation and other executive functions.
Over the 4-6 week treatment period, the TMS therapy will work to stimulate the underperforming neurons, which can help restore normalcy in neural circuits, neurostransmitters, and other essential brain functions. This can result in an improvement in the depression symptoms beginning in about week three of treatment.
A typical TMS treatment session is conducted in an office environment while the patient is fully alert. There is no surgery involved, so anesthesia is not needed. The patient sits comfortably for the 40-minute session, passing the time reading or watching TV. During the treatment the individual will experience a tapping sound and sensation as the magnetic pulses are administered through the scalp.
TMS therapy is well tolerated by patients, with few adverse symptoms resulting from the treatment. Some have reported mild to moderate headache, scalp tenderness or irritation, facial tingling or numbness, or lightheadedness, however these effects tend to be transient.
TMS has been widely studied with worldwide clinical trials conducted since the 90s, and which continue to the present day. There is a large body of clinical data that demonstrates TMS to be safe and effective for treatment-resistant major depressive disorder.
- Nutrition and Exercise
The connection between our physical health and our mental health is powerful. Lack of regular exercise and a diet high in salty, sugary processed foods can result in depressed mood. When depression develops, there is a tendency to engage in even less physical activity and to eat yet more comfort foods, only exacerbating the mood disorder. Diet and exercise can have a significant impact on overall wellness and mood.
- Nutrition. What we feed ourselves has a powerful impact on how the body functions, including our brain health. A diet that includes whole grain breads and pasta, fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts, beans, and seeds, lean sources of protein, and foods high in omega-3 fatty acids will keep blood sugars stable while providing the fuel the body and mind requires to function optimally.
- Exercise. Getting regular exercise through aerobic activities can have a powerful effect on mood. The benefits of exercise are vast, including the obvious physical health benefits for the heart and immune system, but also for the mind. This is due to the brain chemicals produced by sustained physical activity, called endorphins. In addition, the neurotransmitters dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine are also increased leading to better cognitive functioning, better sleep quality, stress reduction, and improved mood.
- Holistic Therapies
There are several holistic therapies that may be used in tandem with conventional depression treatments, such as antidepressants and psychotherapy. These are considered to be complementary to the traditional evidence-based treatments as they can enhance the clinical results. For individuals who are not responsive to antidepressants, or who cannot tolerate the side effects, holistic therapies provide an alternative to the drug therapy.
Holistic therapies are associated with their ability to regulate stress and enhance relaxation, which can in turn help alleviate some degree of the depression symptoms. Holistic methods are natural antidepressants, as they do not require the use of medications. These holistic therapies include:
- Aromatherapy. Aromatherapy utilizes powerful essential oils to help bring about antidepressant effects. The oils are derived from parts of flowers or plants and have been used since antiquity for their healing properties. For depression, the oil of lavender, bergamot, wild ginger, rose, and ylang-ylang have been shown to be effective.
- Acupuncture. Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese medicinal practice that involves inserting fine needles into specific parts of the body to remove blocks in energy flow. Acupuncture can result in a reduction of the severity of depression symptoms
- Yoga. Yoga combines movement and meditation, as well as breathing exercises, which can have a positive effect on symptoms of depression and anxiety. Specifically, yoga can help with sleep quality, improve energy, and elevate mood.
- Mindfulness. Practicing mindfulness means intentionally focusing on the present moment and accepting your feelings. This can help you stop allowing negative or distracting thoughts to take over and sabotage your mental wellbeing, and to counter them with a choice to either accept them as valid or to reject them as untrue. When combined with CBT, mindfulness is an effective drug-free antidepressant.
- Guided meditation. Guided meditation can relieve symptoms of depression by guiding the individual, while using breathwork, toward a more positive state of mind through the power of suggestion and guided imagery. Guided meditation tracks can be found on YouTube or smartphone apps.
- Massage. Massage therapy can relax the body and calm the mind, which results in improved mood. During massage the blood flow is increased while muscle tension is released, which can help relieve fatigue, improve sleep, and elevate overall mental wellbeing.
- Natural Supplements
Another option when seeking natural antidepressants is that of dietary supplementation. While a doctor should always prescribe supplements, as dangerous interactions with other medications may occur, the following are considered safe for the treatment of depression symptoms:
- St. John’s wort
While some individuals will find relief from the depression symptoms through the conventional treatment protocols of antidepressants and psychotherapy, many others who are treatment-resistant continue to suffer. This can be frustrating and disheartening, but these alternative treatment methods can offer renewed hope for relief. If antidepressants have not made a dent in the depression symptoms, it is time to explore these drug-free treatment alternatives.
Anew Era Psychiatry Provides Full Spectrum of Psychiatric Services Including TMS
Anew Era Psychiatry offers comprehensive mental health services in Southern California and Texas. In addition to the conventional psychiatric treatment protocols, Anew Era Psychiatry specialized in the use of natural antidepressants such as TMS therapy. These methods can augment traditional evidence-based therapies, or be used as a drug-free option for treatment-resistant depression. The doctors and clinicians at Anew Era Psychiatry are fully dedicated to helping patients reclaim their quality of life. Please reach out to us today at (949) 577-6853.