This section is dedicated to helping people make an informed decision about their treatment for depression and anxiety.
Pharmaceutical companies spend billions of dollars each year to convince doctors and their patients that medications are the best (or only) treatment for depression and anxiety. However, research shows overwhelmingly that this is not the case. This section reviews several depression treatment options that have been shown to beat placebo by as much or more than drugs, without the harmful side-effects.
The recommendations section below summarizes the treatment options supported by the strongest evidence. There is a link for more detailed information about each recommended treatment.
You can also look up a particular treatment are read a review of the research on it by clicking here: Review Specific Depression Treatments.
Counseling and Therapy
While finding a therapist who is a good match for you can be challenging, this treatment option is the most well-researched and has been shown to be consistently effective.
Research has found consistently that it is a therapist’s personality and not the type of therapy he or she practices that makes one more effective than another. Some important questions when choosing a therapist include:
- Is your therapist a good listener?
- Is he or she warm and do you feel a comfortable connection?
- Do you trust that what he or she is doing is helping you?
Also, remember that phone counseling has been shown to be as effective as in-person.
Social Support and Depression
Having enough social support is absolutely vital for both physical and mental health. While people who are more introverted may prefer to spend a good percentage of their time alone, we are social animals who need to feel cared for and connected to other people. However, for many of us, finding enough social support is easier said than done. Luckily, there are options such as support groups and internet tools like MeetUp.com for people whose social network is not strong enough. What must be stressed is that social support is crucial for improving your mood.
Exercise as Depression Treatment
Over the past 20 years there have been hundreds of studies on using exercise for the treatment of depression. From all this evidence it has become clear that exercise is at least as effective as medication, if not more so. Several types of exercise have been studied and no one form has been shown to be more effective than others. However, high intensity exercise (such as sprinting or interval training) has been shown to raise beta-endorphin levels at rates higher than moderate intensity exercise.
Nutrition and Supplements as a Treatment for Depression
Since the beginning of controlled research in mental health, nutritional treatments have been shown to be effective for even the most severe psychological problems. In fact, there is some evidence that your depression might be caused by a vitamin deficiency or other dietary imbalance. This section reviews a huge body of research and recommends an ideal diet for people struggling with depression.
Sunlight and Lightbox Treatment for Depression
Light therapy (also called phototherapy) is often the fastest acting treatment for depression, achieving results four times faster than drugs. There is some evidence that your depression might be caused by a vitamin D deficiency, and sufficient exposure to sunlight or bright full-spectrum artificial lights can cure that deficiency. Sunscreen blocks the skin’s ability to produce vitamin D, and should never be used in conjunction with light therapy.
Negative Ions and Nature as a Depression Treatment
In natural settings such as near the ocean or in a forest, the level of negative ions in the air is many thousand times greater than in urban or suburban settings. Artificially generating negative air ions is a relatively new and promising treatment. It has been tested in conjunction with light therapy as well as alone and has shown consistenly positive results. It seems to follow that spending time in a natural setting would offer similar benefits, but this has not been sufficiently studied.
Meaning and Spirituality
Why can some people live through the most difficult circumstances and remain positive and healthy? In the past 20 years, research has found that one important answer to this question is meaning. If we can make sense out of our lives in a positive way and we interpret our difficulties as opportunities for growth, we become much less likely to experience psychological symptoms. Spirituality is one important way that people find meaning. This section discusses spiritual and non-spiritual ways to create meaning in your life, and reviews the research.
Volunteering and Service
The research supporting the benefits of volunteering is some of the strongest of any depression treatment. People of all ages who volunteer show significant improvements in mood whether or not they had been experiencing depression. This section reviews the research as well as providing some resources to find volunteering opportunities in your community, including volunteering over the phone.