Anxiety and depression are two common mental health disorders that affect millions of people worldwide – and the COVID-19 pandemic only added fuel to the fire. Based on data from 2019, 301 million people suffer from anxiety and 280 million from depression – that’s a lot of people.
While anxiety and depression are common, they are also vastly complex, and no definition can fully capture the experience of those suffering from them. In a nutshell, anxiety is a feeling of worry or fear that can be mild or severe, while depression is a persistent feeling of sadness or loss of interest in things you used to enjoy.
Both disorders can have a significant impact on your overall quality of life, affecting your relationships, work, and personal well-being – physically and mentally. That’s why treatment is so important.
While medication is a common (and much-needed in some cases) treatment option, non-medication treatments for depression and anxiety, such as psychotherapy and lifestyle changes, are also pivotal. I’m about to share my top three non-medication treatments for anxiety and depression that could help you on your journey.
- Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
Arguably the best non-medication treatment for anxiety is cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). It’s a type of talk therapy that focuses on identifying and changing negative thought patterns and behaviors that contribute to the development and maintenance of these disorders.
The underlying principle of CBT is that the way we think affects the way we feel and behave. With CBT, you’ll work with a therapist to identify negative thought patterns and behaviors and develop strategies to replace them with more positive and effective ones. This might include techniques like relaxation exercises, problem-solving skills, and exposure therapy.
CBT has been particularly effective in generalized anxiety disorder treatment without medication and treatment of other anxiety disorders such as panic disorder and social anxiety disorder. Through exposure therapy, individuals learn to confront their fears in a safe and controlled environment, which can help them develop a sense of mastery over their anxiety.
- Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR)
If we think of our mind as a pond, where the water is calm and clear at times and choppy and murky at others, mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) is like learning to be the person sitting by the side of the pond, watching the water without getting caught up in it.
With MBSR, you learn to focus your attention on the present moment and observe your thoughts and feelings without judgment. It typically aims to make you more aware of your internal experiences and develop a greater sense of control over your emotions. MBSR typically involves a series of classes or sessions led by a trained professional. Participants learn techniques such as meditation, gentle yoga, and body scan exercises to help them become better equipped to manage difficult emotions and situations.
Examples of successful MBSR treatments include reducing stress and anxiety in individuals with chronic illnesses, improving the mood and quality of life in individuals as a non-drug treatment for depression, and reducing symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
- Transcranial-Direct Current Stimulation (tDCS)
Have you ever wished you could just zap away your anxiety or depression? Well, with transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS), that’s kind of what you’re doing. tDCS is a type of brain stimulation therapy that uses a low-level electrical current to stimulate specific areas of the brain – you can read more about it on the homepage and check out what a tDCS device can do for your mental health here.
tDCS works by delivering a gentle electrical current to your brain. It’s thought to help regulate activity in certain areas of the brain associated with anxiety and depression.
One of the cool things about tDCS is that it’s non-invasive and painless, with most people describing the sensation as a mild tingling or itching. While it might sound a bit intimidating, the procedure is actually quite simple and can be done in a doctor’s office or even at home.
Research has shown that tDCS can be effective in reducing symptoms of anxiety and depression, especially when used in combination with other treatments. It’s considered the best non-drug treatment for depression when used alongside therapy.
Some of my personal favorite devices that I’ve had the pleasure of testing include:
- Flow tDCS Headset: A CE-certified tDCS headset and companion app treatment you can use at home. Unfortunately, they only deliver to the EU.
- The Brain Driver: A trusted and seasoned tDCS device with tons of media coverage, including features in the Daily Mail and the Chicago Tribune.
- Fisher Wallace tACS Stimulator: A professional tACS device popular among medical professionals and those living with chronic pain, mood disorders, and insomnia.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the most common types of anxiety and depression disorders?
Anxiety and depression are complex disorders that can take many different forms, but some of the most common types include generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, and major depressive disorder. Each of these disorders presents their own unique set of symptoms and challenges.
Can anxiety and depression be cured without medication?
Mental health disorders like anxiety and depression aren’t necessarily “curable” in the traditional sense, but they can be managed and even overcome without medication. There are many medication-free depression treatment options, such as therapy, mindfulness, exercise, and lifestyle changes, that can be incredibly effective in helping people find relief from their symptoms and lead fulfilling lives.
What are the top non-medication treatments for anxiety and depression?
Some alternative ways to deal with depression include making lifestyle changes like getting regular exercise and practicing mindfulness, as well as seeking out therapy like cognitive-behavioral therapy or trying non-invasive brain stimulation techniques like tDCS.
How long does it take to see results from non-medication treatments for anxiety and depression?
There’s no set timeline for when you’ll start seeing results from non-medication treatments for anxiety and depression. It’s different for everyone and depends on what type of treatment you choose. Some people might feel better after just a few sessions, while others might need to stick with it a bit longer before they start noticing significant improvements.
Are there any side effects of non-medication treatments for anxiety and depression?
Non-medication treatments for anxiety and depression, like cognitive-behavioral therapy and mindfulness-based stress reduction, generally have very few side effects, if any at all. If you’re having any doubts, though, it’s always a good idea to talk to a healthcare professional.
How much do non-medication treatments for anxiety and depression cost?
It all depends on the type of treatment you’re referring to. For example, therapy can be expensive, but many therapists offer sliding scales or other payment options to make it more affordable. tDCS devices range in price, some around $100 and others up to thousands of dollars.
Can non-medication treatments be used in conjunction with medication?
Many mental health professionals recommend a combination of medication and non-medication treatments for anxiety and depression. Combining the two can be more effective than either treatment alone.
If you’re struggling with anxiety or depression, it can be hard to know where to turn for help and to seek out help at all. But by considering non-medication treatments like cognitive-behavioral therapy, mindfulness-based stress reduction, and transcranial-direct current stimulation, you’re taking an important step toward managing your symptoms and improving your quality of life.
Remember, you don’t have to go through this alone. There are many resources available, from mental health professionals to online support groups, that can give you a valuable sense of direction.