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Alternatives for Mood Disorders

There are lots of alternative treatments for clinical depression and anxiety disorders, but you may need tried-and-true treatments.

The Top Contenders continued...

Exercise

We've heard it before: Regular exercise can beat the blues. But research suggests it helps with all levels of depression, even the most severe. Exercise may also help keep depression from coming back.

We're talking about aerobic exercise -- getting your heart pumping, getting winded, and doing it for at least 20 minutes three times week, says Glick.

One study showed that people who kept exercising after they recovered from depression had a lower risk of relapse compared with those who took antidepressant medication but did not exercise, reports James A. Blumenthal, PhD, a professor of medical psychology at Duke University Medical Center.

Leuchter agrees: Exercise helps clinical depression and anxiety disorders. "I recommend that patients do exercise, be active. It helps with recovery. But I would not recommend it as a sole treatment."

Chinese Traditional Medicine

Acupuncture and "integrative medicine" approaches are the least studied, says Glick. Some studies have found that acupuncture can have "a very good effect" on depression. Glick has applied for a federal grant to study acupuncture and depression. "We're interested in looking at specific acupuncture points that have shown the most dramatic effect in depression," he tells WebMD.

When patients don't seem to benefit from other depression treatments, Glick looks more holistically at their problem -- the integrative approach.

"What roles do diet, lifestyle, even toxins stored in your body play in depression and other mood disorders?" Glick tells WebMD. "We look at the gut, how it absorbs nutrients. If it's not absorbing adequately, why is that -- is it toxicity or an intestinal overgrowth?" Integrative approaches also involve looking at the hormonal system -- the thyroid, the adrenal glands, etc., he adds.

Tried and True

Nothing will replace the time-tested approach -- antidepressants and psychotherapy, Leuchter says. "The point is, there are probably many pathways to symptom improvement, but if you're really looking for a cure to depression, try what works."

If one antidepressant does not help enough, talk to your doctor about trying others. Numerous antidepressants are now available, each with positives and negatives, to help both clinical depression and anxiety disorders, psychiatrists say.

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Reviewed on September 20, 2004

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