In some ways, anxiety and depression are like most any other illness or disorder – there are traditional ways of treating them that includes the option of conventional medicine, i.e. prescription drugs. More and more, though, alternative treatments for these mental/emotional conditions are becoming in vogue as health care professionals and their patients seek remedies that steer away from behind-the-counter medicines typically accompanied by unwanted side effects, some of them even debilitating.
What Are Depression and Anxiety?First, though, it helps to know what depression is, and where anxiety sits on the spectrum of conditions that are only in your head. Let's start with anxiety. It is the body's natural response to a threatening or stressful situation, such as hearing urgent news alerts of an approaching tornado or being told that layoffs at your company are imminent. Anxiety can be a good thing when it involves an immediate situation (say, a pedestrian suddenly stepping into the path of your car), helping you to stay alert and prepared to act to solve the problem. But when anxiety becomes an overwhelming constant, it can sabotage relationships and disrupt daily activities. That's when you've crossed the line into anxiety disorder or depression. You need help. Per helpguide.org, here are some typical signs that you might have an anxiety disorder:
- Constant dread, apprehension
- Being on the lookout for danger signs
- Expecting the worst
- Problems concentrating
- Being tense and jumpy
- The sense your mind has gone blank
- Pounding heart
- Stomach upset
- Frequent urination or diarrhea
- Shortness of breath
Medications Called into QuestionThere are well-known medications for depression as well as anxiety (think Zoloft, Prozac Lexapro, etc. for depression; Xanax and Valium, for anxiety). But questions and doubts about the true effectiveness of those drugs have mounted in recent years. Dr. Daniel G. Amen, a psychiatrist writing for doctoroz.com, says that rampant use of these (depression) medications is hurting our society. He also makes the claim, based on research, that for many patients, depression drugs are no more effective than placebos.
Anxiety & Depression Treatment AlternativesHere are some alternative, non-drug treatments for patients suffering from depression and/or anxiety to consider:
- Acupuncture. This is the ancient Chinese practice, still growing in popularity as an acceptable practice around the world, of inserting needles at specific places on the body to manipulate the flow of energy, per the Anxiety and Depression Association of America.
- Yoga. It involves various physical postures, breathing exercises and meditation – all of which work together to possibly help in relieving anxiety and depression.
- Relaxation techniques. These can include guided imagery, biofeedback, and deep breathing exercises, although whatever relief they provide will likely be modest and temporary, but every little bit helps, right? Most can be self-taught and self-administered, per National Institutes of Health.
- Limit caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine. Any one of these can make anxiety worse. Oh, so you cigarette smokers disagree, that smoking will calm you, make everything all right? Think about this: nicotine is a potent stimulant that can heighten anxiety, per helpguide.org.
- Exercise regularly. It's a natural stress and anxiety reliever. We're not just talking runner's high here, either, although, yes, the endorphins do kick in, but even a moderate workout in the morning can smooth out many of the wrinkles in your life the rest of the day.
- Eat healthy. Per webmd.com, there is evidence that foods with omega-3 fatty acids (such as salmon and tuna) and folic acid (Spinach, avocados) can help relieve depression.
- Connect with others. Being alone and isolated won't improve your condition. Find or even start a support group for others suffering from depression or anxiety. Support, caring, sympathy and understanding in a group setting can be a huge help.
- Vitamins and dietary supplements. There are many available out there and available that have shown success in alleviating anxiety symptoms, even depression to some degree. They include cod liver oil. St. John's Wort, and even omega-3 fatty acids.