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Alternative Treatments for Depression

Depression is one of the most difficult things you can deal with in your lifetime. If you have a loved one struggling with depression, it can be very hard to know what to do. And if you’ve ever experienced side effects from a medication, you may be asking , “Does being depressed always mean I need to take medication?”

If you or a loved one are having suicidal thoughts or are unable to function, a psychiatric evaluation is in order. This means if you are having trouble going to school, going to work, or leaving the house and doing your normal routines, you may need a help that includes medication. If you are having thoughts of harming yourself, if you can’t stop crying and something seem off, you need a psychiatric evaluation that could include a medication. The Community North Crisis line is 317-621-5700. Please reach out if you (or a loved one) feels suicidal. 

If the depressed feelings are not as critical and you are still able to function, please keep reading below for ideas.

There are ways to treat depression that do not include using a psychiatric medicine.

What are some alternative treatments for depression?

While there is not one right way to treat depression, there are things that seem to work to get the ball rolling forward again.

Exercise. Exercise doesn’t have to be a big deal. Taking a walk with a podcast in your ear fits the bill here as long as you walk at a decent pace. Exercise does the same thing medication does. It regulates brain chemicals. It gets you moving, changes the scenery, and it makes your blood flow. There is a lot of research about how exercise works even better than therapy!

Neurofeedback. Neurofeedback can be an effective way to help treat depression. The studies on neurofeedback are very positive, sometimes shockingly so. You can find a provider by doing a Google search, looking in social media groups related to your city, or by asking a counselor or friend. Try researching neurofeedback on the Internet. You could start here: https://youtu.be/HxHR7InSQ1c?si=LhOyQCtKI7iJMhJb

Therapy. Oftentimes, there is something a depressed person is struggling with that they can’t solve on their own. It might be not being able to finish tasks. It might be the loss of a relationship or experience. It might be a change in their standing in life or something they lost that they valued. Therapy can help parse out what things are creating a sense of loss. When you know what you long for, you can then go about rebuilding it into your life.

Activities. What about a book club, a Dungeons and Dragons group, a volunteering experience or a job that gets you out of the house? One of the most powerful stories I tell often is about a girl I worked with years ago who had depression. One day out of the blue she came in and said, “I’m better!” I said, “Why?” She said, “I was walking through (her college campus) and someone said hello (and used her name). That did it.” That was the moment her depression faded. She had a goal, was moving toward it, and because of being involved in classes (activities) she was making friends who would say hello to her when she was walking around.

Small goals and successes. Depressed people are often depressed because they can’t see anything positive unfolding in their life. The depression didn’t start because of that, but that’s what finishes it off and sets it in. A good therapist helps a depressed person find ways to succeed at small things. Those little things can be putting their clothes away or making flashcards from a study guide. They might be turning in one job application or going to school for one full day. Those little successes lead to things like changing their job or going “no contact” with a toxic friend or studying for the next test rather than blowing it off. Little successes lead to bigger successes.

Diet changes. A lot of studies are being done that include randomized control trials on diet and depression. These studies suggest that cutting out sugar, processed foods and foods with high carb counts can help regulate feelings of depression (anxiety, too). The science is suggesting when you regulate blood sugar levels you also regulate mood. You could do some searches on YouTube related to depression and low carb diets.


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Free Clear Mind Therapy provides in-person therapy in Fishers & Indianapolis and online therapy across Indiana. Specializing in anxiety therapy for teens, adults, and kids.

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