A group therapy group for depression
Depression

Is There an Alternative to Antidepressants?

Depression continues to rise each year, affecting approximately 1 in 4 Americans. As one of the most common mental health disorders worldwide, the options for treatment have come a long way. Antidepressants are the leading drug used to treat and minimize symptoms of depression. 

While antidepressants help thousands of people cope with depression and improve their life, those with co-occurring disorders like addiction can run into problems with this type of therapy. Some people seek treatments for depression with similar effects of antidepressants, without the negative side effects and risk of dependence. 

There are other reasons that people seek alternatives to antidepressants, like treatment-resistant depression. Some patients may look for something in addition to medication. Either way – if you’re seeking safe alternatives to antidepressants for depression, there are many options to choose from. 


What do Antidepressants do for Depression?

Antidepressants are one of the most common ways that clinical depression is treated and are commonly used to treat other mental health disorders like anxiety, PTSD, and OCD. Depression is characterized by decreased activity in certain areas of the brain that affect mood, hormone regulation, and dealing with stress. These areas include the hippocampus, amygdala, and the prefrontal cortex.

Antidepressant medication is used to increase activity in these previously mentioned regions of the brain. This increased activity is known to improve symptoms of depression like low mood and suppressed appetite. As good as this sounds, antidepressants can sometimes come with many side effects that are unpleasant like apathy, weight gain, and fatigue. 


Lifestyle Factors That Affect Risk of Depression

First and foremost, there are numerous lifestyle factors that can affect symptoms of depression. Leading a healthy lifestyle and taking preventative measures for your health will increase your chances of avoiding or minimizing the plague of depression. Many studies point to the fact that poor lifestyle factors have strong links to mental illness, and healthy factors provide antidepressant qualities. Below are a few ways your lifestyle can support better mental health. 

Regular Exercise

If physical inactivity leads to depression, then the opposite is true. Exercise is a natural antidepressant. Physical activity releases natural happy chemicals that support mood regulation. For best results, it’s important to get regular exercise of at least 30 minutes 3 to 5 days a week.

Consistent Sleep Schedule

Chronic sleep deprivation and poor sleep habits can lead to mental health problems like depression and makes existing problems worse. Your sleep is an imperative part of your wellness and most areas of health require quality sleep. Keeping a regular sleep schedule helps to avoid sleep problems and helps regulate your sleep cycles for optimal results. 

Balanced Diet

Food is another pillar of wellness that contributes to your mental health. Sugar and processed foods increase inflammation in the body and worsen symptoms of depression. Lacking a diet in essential nutrients also contributes to poor mental health. Ensuring that your diet is rich with omega-3 fatty acids, B vitamins, vitamin D, and other important nutrients will help increase your chances of avoiding depression. 

Exposure to Sunlight 

Lack of vitamin D not only affects your physical health but your mental health too. Sunlight helps naturally produce vitamin D and increases the release of serotonin, known for regulating mood and increasing focus.

Mindfulness and Relaxation

Depressive thoughts and rumination contribute to the negative feelings that come with depression. Mindfulness is a safe and healthy alternative to antidepressants. Practicing mindfulness can be used to reduce brain fog, anxiety, and symptoms of depression. You can use techniques like breathwork, meditation, and body-scanning to increase mindfulness. 

Limit Daily Screen Time

While technology is fairly new, there are definite links to screen time and depression. Those who spend more time on screens are more likely to be depressed. Excessive screen time also leads to other problems that contribute to depression, like sleep dysregulation and brain fog. Regulating your screen time can help stave off symptoms of depression. 


Complementary and Alternative Options to Antidepressants

If you’ve had a negative experience with antidepressants or simply desire an alternative, there are a number of safe and effective treatment options to choose from. The options presented below can be taken ahead of choosing antidepressant medication as well. Some patients with more severe depression may need more than one treatment. These therapies and treatments are sometimes combined with antidepressants to maximize treatment. 

TMS Therapy

If you have treatment resistant depression, transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) could be an effective option for you. TMS is a drug free and safe alternative to antidepressants that is considered effective with minimal side effects. TMS therapy provides relief from severe symptoms of depression using short pulses of magnetic energy to stimulate nerve cells in the brain. 

This noninvasive procedure requires a round of 30-36 treatment sessions but the treatment has a high success rate for depression. TMS involves magnetic pulses that stimulate nerve cells in areas of the brain that affects depression. We partner with Gemini TMS to provide you with the most effective treatment for your needs using an individualized treatment plan. Many patients say they feel like a different person after finishing TMS therapy.

Stellate Ganglion Block Injections

SGB injections can be a great option if you have depression along with anxiety and PTSD. SGB injections are the use of local anesthesia to disrupt the nerves that are hyperactive during a major depressive episode. These hyperactive nerves keep the body in a perpetual state of stress. 

Blocking the nerve signals responsible for depression allows the brain to reset. Many people report feeling an immediate sense of calm after an SGB injection. The good news is that SGB is low risk aside from initial bruising and discomfort. The better news is that SGB injections have lasting effects and patients often feel relief for a few months and even up to a few years. 

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

With the help of a therapist, cognitive behavior therapy is a highly successful talk therapy that aims to change the way you think. Often combined with medication, CBT is used to identify unhelpful thought processes and challenge them.

CBT may require “homework” that is to be completed outside of sessions. While this requires a lot of effort, it is considered very effective if you are willing to put in the work. CBT is popular amongst therapists and known for treating various mental health disorders, such as depression, anxiety, and PTSD.

IV Ketamine

Ketamine is becoming a revolutionary treatment for mental health conditions like depression. Intravenous Ketamine infusions consist of administering ketamine through an IV. Ketamine is an anesthetic that activates the neurotransmitter in the brain that is responsible for mood regulation. Ketamine works to repair synapses and effectively rewires the brain. 

Popularly used to treat conditions like depression, bipolar disorder, and PTSD, ketamine is a great option in alternative to antidepressants. . 

Lithium

Often taken in tandem with antidepressants, lithium has long been used to help with symptoms of depression. Lithium is a naturally occurring organic element that acts as a mood stabilizer by increasing certain chemicals in the brain. Lithium also helps reduce the frequency and severity of depressive episodes and reduces risk of suicide.

Neurofeedback 

Also known as EEG biofeedback, neurofeedback is a medication-free approach to treating mental health conditions. Neurofeedback works by using sensors to record brainwave activity. A program then analyzes your brain activity and provides positive reinforcement when the brain meets certain goals. 

Through the use of positive reinforcement, this process teaches the brain to form healthier habits and more balanced thoughts. You can think of this training like exercise for the brain. Neurofeedback may be an option for treatment resistant depression, and the risk factors are significantly low, making it a safe alternative to antidepressants. 

Acupuncture

A thousand-year-old practice, acupuncture is a holistic procedure that uses needles that are placed into specific parts of the skin to release chemicals and neurotransmitters. These chemicals and neurotransmitters are known to help with levels of stress and anxiety by helping with mood regulation and boosting feelings of wellbeing. 


Looking for options?

Gemini Health offers therapy services for depression and anxiety and can provide you with the alternatives you’re looking for. Our dedicated team of mental health professionals offering individual and group therapy and TMS therapy. Avoid the negative side effects of antidepressants by reaching out to Gemini Health today. Reach out to us at (301) 363-1063 and speak with our amazing staff about scheduling an appointment!

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Depression

When Antidepressants Stop Working

Depression is experienced by millions of people over the world. Many people experiencing depression reach out to medical professionals to help them manage their mental health and symptoms. Individuals suffering from depression typically begin with an evaluation from a mental health professional like a psychiatrist and schedule talk therapy with counselors. In many cases, and depending on the severity of the depression, a psychiatrist will also prescribe antidepressants to help manage the depression symptoms. 


What are antidepressants?

Antidepressants are medications that are prescribed to help relieve an individual suffering from depression, mood disorders, and anxiety. The most common antidepressant prescribed are SSRI’s (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors). Used in treating clinical depression, SSRI’s block serotonin from being reabsorbed into the brain’s neurons, allowing them to be available in the body. The available serotonin then improves the messaging from the brain, releasing mood enhancing signals. SSRI’s improve the chemical balances of the brain that cause chronic depression, allowing for the individual to begin experiencing relief. When prescribed antidepressants, it is very important for patients to always take the medication as prescribed. But what happens when they stop working? Or you can’t handle the side effects? 


Why do antidepressants stop working?

Many people have experienced relief from their chronic depression with the help of antidepressants. They maintain a medication regimen for years that helps them combat and manage their depression. But sometimes they stop working, and the individual experiences a depression relapse. Some signs to look out for when you think your medication is no longer working:

  • Your mood seems low
  • Changes in your appetite or sleeping patterns
  • Loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities
  • Increasing desire to isolate

There may be countless of reasons why your antidepressant has stopped working. More than likely, it is due to tachyphylaxis. Tachyphlaxis is a medical term used to describe when a previously effective medication is no longer successfully treating your condition. Just like other chronic illnesses, depression can progress in severity over time. And it will need new approaches in treatment. Transcranial magnetic stimulation (or TMS) can help these individuals. A noninvasive form of treatment, TMS is a therapy that sends out magnetic pulses to specific areas of the brain connected with mood, stimulating these regions that have been long inactive. 

If you’re suffering from breakthrough depression, and would like to explore your options with TMS, you will first need to be evaluated by a mental health professional to determine you are a good candidate. Once established, the patient can discuss their options with their psychiatrist, such as combining different therapy options for their treatment resistant depression. Patients can utilize TMS as a treatment by itself or in conjunction with their medication and talk therapy. Each person is different, and the nature of their severe depression can vary. But TMS makes long-term remission possible.

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