In the “Consulting Therapist” series, I will answer all your questions about mental health and psychology. Whether you are struggling with a mental health condition, coping with anxiety about living conditions, or just seeking the insights of a therapist, you can submit a question. Please pay attention to my answers to your questions in the Healthy Mind newsletter every Friday.
A reader asked
In the past few months, I felt very frustrated. My doctor recommended medicine, but I don’t like taking medicine. My husband is afraid that they will change my character. I am more afraid that I will encounter side effects. How to overcome depression without taking medicine?
There are many different ways to treat depression. Although medicine is an option, it is not the only option. It is wise to explore alternatives to antidepressants before making a decision.
Type and severity of depression
Depression is used as a general term to describe many different symptoms. There are actually several different types of depression. The severity of depression varies widely. People with mild depression may not even know that they have depression, nor may their friends and family members.
People with severe depression may have trouble working properly. Daily tasks, such as getting up and taking a bath, can be difficult to handle. Therefore, there is no one-size-fits-all cure for depression. The treatment of depression can range from self-help strategies to hospitalization.
Although it is not clear which type of depression you have or the severity of depression based on your problem, medication may not be the only way to make you feel better. There are other things you can try.
Your concerns about medication
Glad you talked to your doctor about your depression. Many people will not ask their doctor this question unless they are asked directly. Starting a conversation is a good way to learn more about treatment options.
All drugs have the risk of side effects, and antidepressants are no exception. Maybe your husband knows that someone warns against taking a certain drug because when they take it, they just don’t feel like themselves. Or, you may have seen drug advertisements warning of a long list of potential side effects, from weight gain to lack of libido.
Sometimes side effects sound like problems that might even make you feel more frustrated. After all, difficulty sleeping (which may be a side effect of certain medications) may eventually lead to depression.
The good news is that with careful monitoring by a doctor, side effects can usually be controlled. This may mean completely changing the dose or changing the medication.
If you don’t have the opportunity to ask your doctor about medication choices, it may be helpful to do so. You can also ask if you want to refer to a psychiatrist-a doctor who prescribes mental health drugs. You can ask your doctor at any time which medicine will be recommended to understand your expectations of side effects so that you can make an informed decision.
It may help to involve your husband in your date. He may benefit from knowing the different drug options and solving any of his problems.
Like many people, you may wonder how talking to someone can help relieve depression. But the therapist can develop a customized treatment plan based on your needs and symptoms. Treatment can include anything from learning how to manage specific symptoms (such as irritability) to obtaining emotional support for past events.
You can ask your doctor for a referral to a therapist, or you can ask if the person receiving treatment has someone they recommend. You can also look up the online catalog of local therapists and contact them directly.
Remember, if you want, you can consult a therapist online. Most online treatment sites provide multiple communication methods, such as messaging, real-time chat, or video appointments.
There are many other strategies you can take to get help yourself. For example, you might find self-help books on depression very useful. Whether you are looking for a first-person account or are interested in books written by experts, bookstores and libraries are usually full of books that can address depression symptoms.
There are also many apps, courses, and podcasts that can help treat depression. Some of them target specific skills that can reduce depression, such as meditation. Others are more general. You can also join many online depression support groups. Most of them are free.
You may find it helpful to do some research on strategies that can help relieve depression. When you feel depressed, your brain will basically try to persuade you to do nothing. It may tell you to stay in bed, isolate yourself and remain inactive.
But the less you do, the worse you may feel. Therefore, the best way to fight depression is usually to go against what your brain tells you to do. Doing some physical exercise, talking with friends and family, and doing things you like (even if they don’t necessarily sound fun at first) can help you feel better.
Of course, during a pandemic, you may not be able to choose many “going” pleasure activities. So you may need to try something new. But trying different activities may be an important part of your recovery. You may find that coping techniques such as yoga, meditation, reading, journaling, or walking can relieve symptoms. However, unless you try, you won’t know.
Several treatments for depression are supported by anecdotal stories of people saying certain things contribute to their symptoms. However, there is not enough research behind them for scientists to declare that they are effective treatments for depression. Here are some examples:
- Acupuncture: Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese medicine that involves dredging the energy channels in the body. It involves inserting fine needles into specific areas of the body.
- Reflexology: A reflexologist applies pressure to different pressure points on the feet, hands, ears and face.
- Herbs: Herbs, such as St. John’s wort and Ginkgo biloba, are often used to treat depression. Most can be purchased at health food stores or pharmacies.
Schedule another appointment
The best starting point is to have another conversation with your doctor. Discuss what you want to try as the first line of defense to make sure your doctor thinks this strategy is a good fit for your specific type of depression and the severity of your experience.