Can Depression Be Cured Without Medication?

Goda Brzozauskaite
  • Dec 07, 2021
  • 5 min read
Dispirited mature woman suffering from depression

This question arises in the minds of many who are looking for an alternative treatment for depression. The answer is never the same for everyone, though. It depends a lot on your depression background, symptoms, and genetics.

But the good news is that antidepressants never have to be the primary form of treatment – psychotherapy is often a more effective and safe way to receive help. So let's find out how depression can be treated without medication.

Why is therapy your way to go?

Scientists agree that therapy is just as effective as antidepressants and has longer-lasting effects as well. Medications can treat symptoms, but psychotherapy addresses the underlying issues, such as sources of anxiety, childhood trauma, low self-esteem, burnout, relationship difficulties, or chronic diseases. It addresses the problems, not how they express themselves. Mild or moderate depression can be treated without drugs, and quite successfully. 

One of the biggest advantages of therapy is that you are never left to deal with your depression alone. Having someone who understands you and doesn't let you feel detached from the entire world is very helpful for those who have this mental disorder. 

But therapists are not only there to listen and acknowledge it. They use their extensive experience and wide range of techniques to help you deal and cope with the challenges depression brings and guide you towards a better tomorrow, step by step.

Another reason psychotherapy is so effective is that it allows people to develop their own approaches to dealing with problems. The main goal of therapy is to create long-lasting changes in the way a person thinks and acts, especially in the face of adversity. 

But for that, you need therapy that fits your type of issues, personality, and approach to life. Thankfully, there are enough different types of therapies for everyone's palets.

Types of Therapy for Depression

Here we’ll list the most popular ones: 

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) helps you recognize and change negative thought patterns and behaviors.
  • Psychodynamic therapy investigates how experiences and your unconscious mind influence how you feel, think, and behave. 
  • Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) combines cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) with mindfulness meditation. 
  • Humanistic therapy teaches you the importance of being your true self and helps you live life to the fullest. 

But what about the cost? Not everyone can afford to sit on a therapist's couch twice a month. Unfortunately, traditional in-person therapy is unlikely to get cheaper anytime soon. However, this doesn’t mean you have to suffer alone. Online therapy is a new trend aiming to make mental healthcare more affordable and accessible to everyone.

It significantly cuts down the costs, as one therapist can now interact with more patients at a time and without having to pay for an office space. People undergoing online therapy can often experience faster improvement, as they can talk with their therapist 5-6 days per week. However, as the therapy often starts via text messages, the beginning is usually slower.

Other treatment options

Alternative herbal medicine

Therapy and medications are not the only options you can choose from. How can depression be treated another way?

Alternative treatments

Let's explore other methods that help reduce depression symptoms:

  • Light therapy. If you are suffering from seasonal depressive disorder, light therapy can effectively elevate your symptoms.
  • Brain stimulation. If depression doesn’t respond to medication or therapy, electric or magnetic stimulation can help regulate the parts of the brain responsible for mood regulation.
  • Herbal medicine. Some people prefer herbal medicines for treating mild or moderate depression. While there is some evidence of their effectiveness, doctors don't recommend it.

However, there are also things you can do on your own.

Self-help methods

Changing your lifestyle can also have a surprisingly positive impact on your mental health. While you shouldn't rely on lifestyle modifications as the sole treatment, these can help support therapeutic or medication outcomes. Here are some things worth trying:

  • Emotional support. You may need constant reassurance that others care about you to feel less lonely and disconnected from the rest of the world. It's wonderful if you have family and friends who are knowledgeable about how to help someone who is depressed. If not, both sides can feel stressed even talking about it. Checking out organizations like Mental Health America to find quality support groups can be a good idea in this case.
  • Creating a routine. Knowing what you will do when you wake up in the morning, and when, may help you feel more in control in your life. Therapists often create these types of action plans for their clients with depression. 
  • Mindfulness. Mindfulness is a fancy term for meditation. A study found that mindfulness-based cognitive therapy was just as effective as antidepressants in preventing depression relapse. Knowing how to stay present can help you control your rumination tendency and other negative thinking habits that make you spiral down the depression chasm. 
  • Exercises. There are many good things exercising can do for your mental health. Its most direct effect on depression is the release of neurotrophic proteins (growth factors) that stimulate nerve cell growth and the formation of new neural connections. Intensive activity is the best way to release these elements.
  • Nutrition. Your brain needs a certain amount of vitamins and minerals to stay healthy. This is a broad topic, so make sure you do your research from respectable resources to decide what foods to include in your diet and what to avoid. 

Can depression go away once and for all? 

Calm woman smiling

If you are determined to try therapy and change your lifestyle to pull yourself out of the dark place, you sure want to know if it's worth the price. Can depression be cured forever? Sadly, there will never be a definite answer to such a question. 

Some forms of the disorder, for example, postpartum depression, are likely to decrease over time. While treatment is essential for successfully reducing symptoms, the most prolonged period women experience postpartum depression is around 3 years. However, other forms of depression, such as clinical depression or bipolar depression, can last for decades, or a lifetime, if untreated.

Treatment success depends on the severity of your symptoms, how long you have been living with depression, and your genetics. Severe depression may never be cured permanently, but can depression be treated? It can, much like diabetes, be treated but not cured.

What is the difference between curing and treating something? When a person is cured of a disease, it is essentially gone for good. However, the human mind is an extremely complex mechanism, and no one can guarantee whether the treatment outcomes will last for a month, a year, or a decade. 

Major depression disorder typically lasts several months. If untreated, it can become chronic and persist for far longer. That’s why it's so important to seek help as soon as you start noticing symptoms. 

You can also reduce the risk of recurrent depression episodes by improving your lifestyle in the ways described above. 

Can depression be treated without any medication? 

If you have severe depression, a history of depression in the family, or can't afford or access therapy, antidepressants may be the only way to start getting treatment. It doesn't mean that you’ll have to stick to them for the rest of your life, though. If you treat your depression effectively, it has a much lower chance of becoming chronic.

A combination of therapy and antidepressants is, for now, the most effective way to treat depression.

You may feel scared to start taking them, which is completely normal. There are a lot of stigmas and stereotypes surrounding antidepressants. Sit for a moment with this thought, trying to identify your biggest fear, and then start researching about it (with trustworthy information only, of course). 

Maybe you have already tried them but suffered terrible side effects? Most of the time, side effects disappear after several weeks. If not, your doctor should adjust the dosage or try a different medication. The correct dosage and type of medicine will decrease the risk of side effects.

Can depression go away on its own?

man sitting next to the window and thinking

If you’re wondering, “can depression be cured on its own?” Unfortunately, the answer is no. Moreover, there are many reasons why you should not try to wait and see. Untreated depression can last from months to even decades and worsen over time.

It may not only be harder to deal with depression later on, but it may also pose a threat to other aspects of your life, such as relationships, work, and your health. Depression often goes along with drug or alcohol addictions, and gives rise to suicidal thoughts.

Imagine your computer is starting to act strange, and you see smoke coming out of it. Would you continue to use it, hoping it will simply sort itself out somehow, or bring it to a repair shop? While depression doesn't sound like "a real disease" since its symptoms aren’t always physical, it does have a physical presence rooted in your brain. And just like any other serious physical illness, it needs treatment to go away.

The silver lining

You may feel confused and scared right now. But you don't have to feel alone. Thousands of professionals worked for decades to find the best forms of treatment for those suffering from depression. Only a tiny percentage of people don’t respond well to any treatment whatsoever. Depression can go away, and it's up to you to decide which methods to try first. Make sure to discuss them with our mental health professionals and get their expert opinions.

Medication Isn’t The Only Option To Treat Depression

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