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Do You Have to Take Antidepressants?

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Many people experiencing moderate to severe depression are prescribed antidepressants to help them feel better. They are evidence-based prescription drugs, and many people find them effective for taking back control of their lives. 

However, if you’re feeling low, anxious, or have minor depression, you might be wondering if you can try alternatives to antidepressants and see if they work for you. With the guidance and support of your healthcare professionals, you might decide to explore some of the following alternatives. 

Cannabis

While there is not enough research to suggest that cannabis products are effective for managing depression, many users purchase them for this reason and have noted some differences in their everyday lives. 

According to an observational trial examining the antidepressant and anxiolytic effects of medicinal cannabis use, medicinal cannabis was associated with lower self-reported depression, superior sleep, improved quality of life, and less pain. 

That observational trial concluded that medicinal cannabis use might reduce anxiety and depressive symptoms in clinically depressed and anxious populations. Discuss cannabis use with your physician if you believe this antidepressant alternative is suitable for you. 

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)

Even if you decide to use antidepressants or other alternative products like cannabis, cognitive behavioral therapy is generally recommended as an additional support layer for people suffering from moderate to severe depression. 

CBT is a form of talk therapy that helps you understand your behaviors and thoughts and how they affect you. Sometimes, you can even learn how past events impact you in the present and how to overcome negative thoughts. While in-person CBT is typically recommended for people who have never undertaken talk therapy before, you can also explore online CBT as a more convenient and sometimes more affordable option. 

Self-help groups

One-on-one therapy can be daunting, and not everyone likes the idea of being the center of attention. In that case, you might explore self-help groups. These groups allow you to connect with like-minded people facing similar life challenges. You can often join these groups online, in person, or even create your own. 

Exercise

When you’re in the throes of a depressive episode, going for a walk, a run, or a bike ride can sometimes feel like one of the last things you want to be doing. However, exercise is helpful for depression. In fact, a systematic review overview found that physical activity is 1.5 times more effective at reducing the mild-to-moderate symptoms of depression, stress, and anxiety than medication or CBT. The review also found that study participants who were followed up 10 months later had lower rates of depression than those of the medication and combination groups. 

Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT)

While typically only recommended for people with severe depression who haven’t experienced relief with other treatments, electric shock treatment or electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) might be worth exploring. 

The American Psychiatric Association, American Medical Association, and the National Institute of Mental Health all recognize ECT as an effective treatment method for severe mental health challenges. However, there can be unpleasant side effects to consider, like nausea, headaches, and muscle aches. 

Healthcare professionals often recommend antidepressants, and they work well for many people. However, if you’d like to explore alternatives, talk to your physician about some of the options above.


Jordan Wayne , a psychology graduate from the University of Hertfordshire, has a keen interest in the fields of mental health, wellness, and lifestyle.

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