There’s no question that anti-depressant medications have been a godsend for some people. Sometimes, depression is just too hard to handle without chemical assistance. But, even when used successfully, there’s also no question that anti-depressants have their issues. Common anti-depressant side effects include lowered libido, nausea, insomnia, and weight gain. Depending on your insurance, they can also be incredibly expensive, which is unfortunate given that depression and poor financial circumstances can often go hand-in-hand.
The good news is that there are definitely alternatives to anti-depressants. The following mental health solutions have a lower side-effect profile than, say, Prozac. Some are free, others are relatively inexpensive. Additionally, if you do need medication—and, to repeat, some people do—they can all supplement other treatments.
A lot of people have this idea that talk therapy is only for the unstable, or that it seeing a therapist means you’re a weak person. The opposite is true, on both counts. Almost anyone can use some degree of acceptance and guidance, whether in regards to their deepest darkest secrets or just their annoying co-workers. And, while you may have a confidante among your circle of friends, it’s very difficult to find anyone who will offer truly judgment-free listening. Moreover, your friends don’t necessarily have the emotional tools that therapists have. As for the matter of whether only weak people go to therapy: being willing to open up against your problems is a sign of strength and self-confidence.
Traditionally, therapy has been expensive and difficult to access. However, that’s all changed with online therapy applications. The best online therapy works just like the best of offline therapy, with specialists who are chosen to meet your specific needs, and it can be much more economical than going to private psychotherapists, who sometimes charge hundreds of dollars an hour.
While there are lots of online therapy applications, in their review of BetterHelp, Manlywellness states that it’s a great option, especially when convenience and accessibility are top priorities. Try it as a first step.
Large-scale analysis of published academic literature consistently suggests that exercise is helpful in treating depression and that its effects may have been understated in the past, given that medical journals are sometimes biased towards touting medication.
If you’re suffering from depression, and you’re having a difficult time even getting out of bed, the prospect of exercising might be dreadful. Depressed people generally don’t want to go to the gym and lift a million pounds. Relax—the studies indicate that even moderate exercise can be of huge benefit. Just a walk around the neighborhood can perk you up a bit, even if you want to listen to sad music on headphones as you’re doing it.
Moreover, exercise tends to improve all areas of your life. People who have more active lifestyles naturally gravitate towards better habits in multiple areas, get better sleep, and have more energy. Even a little exercise can start positive feedback loops that will touch every area of your life.
One of the cruel realities of depression is that while it drains your energy, it also tends to disturb your sleep, which then exacerbates your depression further. While it’s true that some people with depression struggle with hypersomnia—excessive sleep—medical literature suggests that this is dwarfed by insomnia, which is experienced by a shocking 75% of those with depression symptoms. The same literature shows that taking care of insomnia is often a necessary step in depression recovery.
So, how do you go to sleep at night? Unfortunately, our modern lifestyles are really bad for our sleep, but, fortunately, that means that there are a lot of steps you can take to improve matters.
One of the most important factors is light. Our bodies take cues from the light levels in our environments. Getting sunlight early in the day is good for sleep because it puts our body on a natural schedule. Seeing a lot of light before bed is bad because a lot of blue light essentially tells our body that it’s still daytime. So, stay off your devices right before bed, or at least use blue light blocking programs like F.lux.
As previously mentioned, exercise is another easy way to improve your sleep life. Also, natural supplements like melatonin can help. For more information, see this page from the UK’s National Sleep Council.
Depression is really good at encouraging you to make negative lifestyle choices that make you more depressed. For example, a lot of depressed people want to retreat from others. Feelings of guilt and self-doubt and shame can stop you from talking about your problems, which, if you’re dealing with severe depression, means talking about your whole life. You start to feel like you drag others down, that you’ll just make others depressed if you talk to them.
However, the scientific literature suggests that depressed people don’t “infect” happy people with their moods. The opposite is true: good moods are contagious, and companionship is necessary to mental health. Humans are social creatures. So, though it may be a struggle, reaching out to someone you know and even having a quick catching up session over the phone can be the first step towards better mental health.
About one-fifth of all individuals suffering from depression engage in substance use to the degree that it can be called self-medication, and such self-medication progresses into full-on substance abuse. This is absolutely toxic, especially given that substance abuse tends to negatively affect your lifestyle in ways that make it more difficult to recover from depression. While a night of heavy drinking might take your mind off what’s ailing you, it can also be part of a vicious cycle.
Stone cold sobriety isn’t necessary to recover from depression. However, if you’re depressed and recreationally using mind-altering substances, whether alcohol or something stronger, make sure that your recreation isn’t a substitute for getting the help of another kind. Self-medication is short-term relief that encourages long-term pain.
Taking on depression can seem impossible, especially if you don’t want to take medication or can’t afford it. However, you’re not helpless. It’s not over. Many have recovered from this wildly common yet serious disease. And, when you beat depression or just lessen its severity with the above solutions, there’s a positive side-effect: more fun and meaningful life.