Alternatives To Antidepressants That Are Proven To Work

Tresha Barrett - Author

May 23 2017, Updated 9:29 p.m. ET

More than one in 10 Americans take antidepressants, the primary type of medication used by people ages 18 to 44.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that antidepressant drugs constitute the most commonly prescribed medications in the U.S. They were the third most common prescription drug taken by Americans of all ages in 2005–2008, and the most frequently used by persons aged 18–44 years. From 1988–1994 through 2005–2008, the rate of antidepressant use in the United States among all ages increased nearly 400 percent. Now, at least 27 million Americans over the age of six are taking the medication.

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Depression can be a temporary feeling of dejection or a long feeling of severe despondency. At the end of the day, not many people want to experience the sad, hopeless feeling that comes along with depression so they look for ways to mask, or try to get rid of, the pain.

According to Medical News Today, up to 42 percent of people who take antidepressants find the medication ineffective. In addition to that, antidepressant medications tend to come with nasty side effects – and so, when trying to get rid of one problem, another one springs up.

Alternative medicine is seen as a much safer choice to use to try and combat depression, rather than turning to antidepressant medications.

Keep in mind though, that alternative remedies are not a replacement for medical diagnosis and treatment. But for many people, certain herbs and supplements do work very well for them.

St. John’s wort

This is an herb that’s been used for centuries to treat a variety of ills, including depression. It’s not approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat depression in the United States, but it’s a popular depression treatment in Europe. It may be helpful if you have mild or moderate depression. However, it should be used with caution, St. John’s wort can interfere with a number of medications, including antidepressants, HIV/AIDS medications, epilepsy drugs, blood-thinning medications and chemotherapy drugs. So it should not be taken without first consulting a doctor.


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Reuters reported that according to a new study, people with depression may benefit as much from acupuncture as they do from counselling. Researchers found one in three patients was no longer depressed after three months of acupuncture or counseling, compared to one in five who received neither treatment.

“For people who have depression, who have tried various medical options, who are still not getting the benefit they want, they should try acupuncture or counseling as options that are now known to be clinically effective,” said Hugh MacPherson, the study’s lead author from the University of York in the UK.


A review of studies stretching back to 1981 concluded that regular exercise can improve mood in people with mild to moderate depression. It also may play a supporting role in treating severe depression. Another study showed that antidepressants and exercise had the same effects in treating depression. It was even concluded in a follow-up study that exercise’s effects lasted longer than those of antidepressants.

The research found that the people who exercised regularly after completing the study, regardless of which treatment they were on originally, were less likely to relapse into depression.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

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A well-established, highly effective, and lasting treatment is called cognitive-behavioral therapy, or CBT. It focuses on identifying, understanding, and changing thinking and behavior patterns. Benefits are usually seen in 12 to 16 weeks, depending on the individual.

In this type of therapy the patient is actively involved in his or her own recovery, has a sense of control, and learns skills that are useful throughout life. CBT typically involves reading about the problem, keeping records between appointments, and completing homework assignments in which the treatment procedures are practiced. Patients learn skills during therapy sessions, but they must practice repeatedly to see improvement.

Yoga and Meditation

Yoga offers a unique connection to the body and mind, and is being used more and more to reduce stress in cases of PTSD, treat depression, and to enhance overall well-being. It has been proven that GABA levels increase after a session of yoga. GABA acts as a neurotransmitter, which inhibits nerve transmission to the brain, resulting in calming and quieting the mind.

Certain yoga positions are effective in lowering the level of stress hormone cortisol and stimulating the release of endorphins (which reduce one’s perception of pain and trigger a positive feeling). Significant improvements in mental health have been witnessed after continuous yoga sessions.

Vitamin B6 and Vitamin B12

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Did you know that Vitamin B6 and B12 are called the mental health vitamins? Research has shown that these two nutrients can help to fight depression.


Some experts believe that one’s diet can also play a role in battling depression. Eating less ‘junk food’ and better foods like lean proteins, whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, and fish is said to provide higher energy levels and sharper mental focus. According to Dr. David Wheatley, a consultant, private psychiatrist, and previously director of the Maudsley Stress Clinic, it is “an infinitely preferable first line treatment option for those who feel mildly to moderately depressed.”

Antidepressants come with a (depressing) amount of side effects for many who take them. Why not take the time and at least try a less risky way to treat the problem, instead of going for one of the most potentially harmful options first?

[Image via Pillscout]


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