Drug-Free Depression Treatments

Updated on October 20, 2017
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Christin is a natural health and wellness advocate with 20 years' of experience studying and working in the health and supplement industry.

drug free depression treatments alternatives to drugs
drug free depression treatments alternatives to drugs | Source

An estimated 1 in 10 Americans deals with some type of depression and these numbers have been rising according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Anti-depressant medication use has increased almost 400% in the last two decades. Reports from the CDC suggest 11 percent of Americans take an anti-depressant. Women are more than twice as likely as men to use prescription drugs to treat depression.

Although there has been an increase of those on anti-depressant medications, there is still a consistent rise in depression. How can that be if these medications are a cure for depression? Perhaps it isn't as simple as taking a pill to feel better.

Anyone, including myself, who has dealt with depression before and overcome it will tell you it requires a comprehensive lifestyle change. Just like you can't take a pill to be skinny – you can't take a magic pill to feel better and beat depression. It requires dedication and effort. That isn't to say medication can't temporarily assist with bouts of deep depression. They do have their uses; however, these drugs also pose some serious risks for side effects.

Why SSRI's are Addictive and Dangerous

Depression Drugs & Side Effects

Popular anti-depressant medications include Paxil, Zoloft, Celexa, and Prozac, which fall under the classification of SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors). SSRIs change the balance of Serotonin in the brain, preventing it's re-absorption, which in turn boosts mood. These drugs are said to have the least amount of side effects, making them the most commonly prescribed.

Side effects of these drugs include nausea, headaches, fatigue, nervousness, insomnia, weight gain, and sexual problems. In young people 24 and under, there have been alarming statistics with these drugs causing increased thoughts of suicide and risk of self-harm. In 2007, the FDA mandated manufacturers to update their black-box warnings to declare the suicide risk children face during treatment with these drugs. A “black box” warning is the strongest warning issued before a drug is pulled off the market.

Have You Explored Non-Drug Remedies and Treatments for Depression?

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Drug Free Depression Remedies

Herbal Remedies

There are several herbal remedies that can treat mild to moderate depression and anxiety. Some of them can have side effects as well, so it's best to discuss your needs with a licensed herbalist or naturopathic doctor to get the right dosage and combination for you before trying these remedies.

Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, or individuals with preexisting conditions that hinder drug metabolism by the major organs should also consult with a specialist before incorporating any of these recommendations into their diet.

Some herbs that aid in the treatment of anxiety and depression are:

  • Ginko Biloba
  • Milk Thistle
  • Ginseng
  • Kava Kava
  • Skullcap
  • Fennel
  • Lemon Balm
  • Willow Bark
  • St John's Wort
  • Passionflower

Sam-e and 5HTP are not herbs, but they are supplements and one's I've had great success with. 5-HTP, or 5-hydroxytryptophan,is a natural substance produced by the body that helps form serotonin. Taking a supplement can naturally aid in boosting serotonin, but it should NOT be combined with anti-depressant drugs. If you are on medications, don't use this.

Sam-e is another similar compound in the body that aids the production of both dopamine and serotonin. Taking it in supplement form has been proven to work according to several studies. It too, should not be taken in combination with prescription medicines.

Dietary Changes

A proper diet can go a long way to easing depression symptoms. Many depression symptoms can be linked to food sensitivities and vitamin deficiencies. Low iron levels for example can lead to crushing fatigue and increased likelihood of panic attacks.

B vitamins in the diet are responsible for normal functioning of neurotransmitters in the brain. An adequate supply of B vitamins is simultaneously energizing and calming. Excessive consumption of B vitamins however can have an opposite effect and lead to irritability and mood swings. B vitamins are often added in excess to products like energy drinks.

If you have a food sensitivity to gluten or dairy it can manifest in feelings of depression as well. If you find you crave simple carbohydrates; you may be addicted to those foods which cause blood sugar spikes and crashes. Carbohydrate addiction plays a big role in exacerbating depression.

For me, I cleaned my diet up completely. I am a pretty "all or nothing" person when it comes to things because I have an addictive personality. I also know that if I feel "deprived" I will fail. I decided that 6 days per week I would follow a strict diet with 1 free day. My free day is Sunday which I have dubbed "Funday" lol where I have treats if I want them. The other six days I eat no dairy, grains or sugar.

It was difficult at first, but instead of focusing on what I couldn't have; I shifted my attention consciously to what I could. Within days - and I mean this literally, after years of struggling. I felt at ease - no anxiety, no depression and I slept well.

A few weeks in and fat was melting off my body and I had energy I hadn't experienced since my youth. Your diet plays a larger role than you want to admit to yourself. Until you can accept that and quit poisoning your body with processed and unhealthy foods - you'll likely always have symptoms.

Emotional Freedom Technique EFT

This alternative practice has soared in popularity in recent years. It is easy to learn for yourself and very effective at instantly relieving tension and anxiety – the precursors to more serious forms of depression. It requires an open mind as it is a bit unusual, but I have used it successfully myself to ease anxiety and find clarity.

EFT focuses on energy centers in the body. Using a series of taps while focusing on a mantra that counters the source of anxiety, EFT helps release nervous tension. See the video in this hub for a good intro to EFT.


Study after study confirms that regular exercise is quite possibly the best treatment for mild to moderate depression. According to Harvard Medical School, a 2005 study found walking for 35 minutes a day 5 days per week or 60 minutes 3 times per week had a significant impact on depression symptoms.

So how does exercise work? Exercise triggers the release of endorphins, the bodies own “feel good” hormones that improve mood.

Hate cardio? Me too. I do it, but I've found that strength training and resistance training have helped me the most. Is it the exercise itself? The strength and stamina it builds? Who knows, but building strength for me has lifted a mind fog that was always a part of my depression. I am energetic during the day; I sleep well at night and my body is functioning as it should.


Resist the urge to bottle up emotions or allow anxieties to grow into overwhelming obstacles. Find healthy outlets for release like art or journaling. Taking time to release pent up emotions and express yourself in positive ways can naturally relieve stress and depression.

As a mom; I often feel the need to be "a rock" for my family. I get in the bad habit of swallowing my fears, frustrations and yes, frankly boredom. Don't berate yourself for these feelings. Take time for yourself. I was always told it was "selfish" to put yourself ahead of others. I've learned that the opposite is true. Expecting others to pick up the slack when we are unfulfilled is what is truly selfish and burdensome.

I take time for myself daily to do things I enjoy - even if just for a few minutes. The result, a more satisfied and productive mom and wife whose family gains more benefit.

Talk About It

Whether you talk to a traditional counselor or therapist, or join a support group – take time to open up and talk about what bothers you. Having an objective person around you can help give you the courage to discuss issues you may otherwise keep hidden.

In group situations, sometimes hearing the stories of others who struggle with similar situations can help you feel less alone while also benefiting them at the same time. In this modern age, there are often online support groups and forums where you can talk anonymously.

Learn more comprehensive drug-free ways to deal with depression here including a full list of remedies and precisely how they work: Natural Remedies for Anxiety and Depression

EFT Technique

Questions & Answers

    © 2013 Christin Sander


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      • ChristinS profile image

        Christin Sander 4 years ago from Midwest

        Thanks Nick, so glad you found it helpful. It is definitely a challenge finding what works when there is so much information and misinformation out there about depression, probably much of it from people who have never actually experienced it.

      • nwolf93 profile image

        Nicholas Wolf 4 years ago from Dana Point, California

        This was a great hub to read. Thank you. Very helpful, straight forward, and easy to understand.


      • ChristinS profile image

        Christin Sander 5 years ago from Midwest

        Thanks for reading and sharing Learning - much appreciated :) I'll be sure to check out your hubs on the subject as well.

      • Learning in Life profile image

        Megan Sisko 5 years ago from SW Florida

        Wow I've written a couple of hubs about dealing with depression naturally but you blew me out of the water with this one. Great job! Voted up and sharing.