4 options for depression treatment without medication

We live in a world where prescription medications drive common treatment options. Between 2005-2008, antidepressants were the third most common drug amongst Americans, including children and adults. With dozens of antidepressant medications on the market, it’s no surprise that prescription drugs are the go-to option for people who have been diagnosed with depression.

With antidepressant medications comes the risk of potential side effects such as insomnia, nausea, fatigue, low libido, and weight gain. Looking for an alternative treatment for depression that doesn’t involve medication? Here are 4 non-prescription drug options that have proven to be useful in minimizing depression symptoms.

  1. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Talking to an everyday therapist may have had little impact on your depression symptoms, but cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) has shown to be highly beneficial in helping those with mild to moderate depression. This form of therapy focuses on being aware of thoughts and how they can lead to destructive thinking and behavioral patterns. Through CBT you will have a better sense of self and understand the impacts of dysfunctional thinking.

During CBT you will discuss topics like:

  • Filtering
  • Overgeneralization
  • Black and white thinking
  • Personalization
  • Jumping to conclusions
  • Minimizing and magnifying
  • Blaming
  • Emotional reasoning

With CBT you can not only talk through your negative thoughts and behaviors, you’ll also get a thorough understanding of what is causing you to think and feel certain ways. In turn you can embrace positive thinking and find ways to keep cognitive distortions from impacting your daily life.

  1. Electroconvulsive Therapy

This form of depression treatment may be an option for patients who have experienced little to no relief from other treatment options.

Electroconvulsive therapy, also known as ECT, is a procedure that uses an electric current to produce a controlled seizure. To prevent convulsions and other seizure-related symptoms, patients are given a muscle relaxant as well as anesthesia to make the therapy as relaxing as possible. While there are minimal physical impacts to the body, a controlled seizure causes a burst of synchronized brain wave activity that changes the brain’s chemistry.

After treatment, patients may experience nausea, headache, and confusion. Some patients may also experience memory loss; however, memory problems tend to improve within months after ECT treatment has concluded.

  1. Acupuncture & Electroacupuncture

Chinese medicine techniques such as acupuncture have proven to be a promising option for those looking to treat their depression without the use of antidepressants. While many assume that acupuncture is used for treating joint pain and inflammation, the tiny thin needles have also proven to be useful in alleviating depression symptoms.

A study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine found that electroacupuncture, a combination of traditional acupuncture with a mild electric current, was just as effective as Prozac. The study found that electroacupuncture worked quickly and produced a more dramatic reduction of symptoms.

The science behind acupuncture is the precise placement of the needles which is said to correct energy blockages and imbalances. Studies have also shown that acupuncture releases endorphins and activates the natural pain reduction chemicals in the body.

  1. Exercise

When you suffer from depression, it’s difficult to find the energy let alone the drive to get up and exercise, but once you do, you’ll notice that you feel better inside and out. Not only is exercise good for your physical health, it also provides a host of mental benefits such as alleviating depression symptoms and minimizing stress.

When you exercise, your body releases higher levels of serotonin and norepinephrine. Exercise has also been linked to the release of neurotrophic proteins. These proteins encourage cells within the brain to grow and make new connections. A boost in brain function also boosts your mood.

To get the most benefits, strive to exercise for at least 20 minutes a day, three times a week. The best part about exercise is that you don’t have to force yourself to become a runner or spend hours at the gym. Physical activity is anything that gets your heart going.

Set aside 30 minutes and have a dance party in your room. Head to the local pool and take a few laps. Go on a hike through the mountains with a friend. The options are truly endless. All that matters is that you’re up and moving!


When most people think of depression treatment, most think of antidepressants. While prescription drugs have proven to be helpful in alleviating depression symptoms, they aren’t the end all be all. Some patients experience side effects while others have to try a variety of medications to find one that works the best.

If you want to treat your depression without medication, keep these 4 alternative treatment options in mind and discuss them with your doctor at your next appointment.

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