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Remedies for Depression

Medically Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on November 12, 2020

Depression is a widespread disorder that affects around one in 15 adults each year. There are many different types and causes of depression, some of which require medication or hospitalization. Although many home remedies for depression may also help a person cope with grief or loss, depression differs from grief (but the two may occur at the same time). 

Symptoms of depression include:

  • Fatigue or loss of energy
  • Too much sleep or trouble sleeping
  • Feelings of sadness
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in activities
  • Thoughts of death or suicide
  • Changes in appetite
  • Difficulty thinking, concentrating, or making decisions

Many types of depression require talk therapy or medication. Most antidepressant medications work on your neurotransmitters, brain chemicals associated with depression.

The most commonly prescribed antidepressants are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) such as fluoxetine (Prozac) and paroxetine (Paxil). These medications are generally safer than others at higher doses and come with fewer problematic side effects. However, many different antidepressant options are available, and your doctor will work with you to find the right medication and dosage.

In rare cases, your doctor may recommend alternatives to medication, including medical procedures such as electroconvulsive therapy, transcranial magnetic stimulation, or vagus nerve stimulation.

While many people with depression require therapy or other professional medical care, there are home remedies that can help resolve mild cases or complement treatment.

Remedies and Treatments for Depression

There are several strategies and treatments that can help you manage your depression symptoms. They can also help prevent recurrence after a depressive reaction has passed.

Healthy Lifestyle

Your lifestyle influences your depression. When depressed, you’re more likely to make unhealthy choices, and unhealthy choices can make you more depressed.

To practice a healthy lifestyle, you should get plenty of sleep and avoid alcohol and recreational drugs, which can worsen symptoms.

You should also try to exercise regularly. Exercise helps ease depression symptoms by:

  • Releasing endorphins (feel-good brain chemicals) 
  • Distracting you from your worries
  • Producing self-confidence
  • Increasing social contact if in a gym or group workout setting
  • Acting as a healthy coping strategy 

Although you might not be motivated to exercise when you’re depressed, this is one of the quickest and most effective activities to ease your symptoms.

Some psychiatrists believe diet is important for your mental health due to a relationship between gut health and depression. There is even an emerging field of “nutritional psychiatry,” which focuses on the relationship between mental health and nutrition. 

The diet most often recommended as a depression treatment is the Mediterranean diet. This mostly plant-based diet includes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins like beans, lentils, and peas.

Herbal Remedies

Clinical studies show that saffron and St. John’s Wort may help lessen depression symptoms. However, St. John’s Wort can cause side effects and interfere with any prescr iption m edications you’re taking.

Alternatively, you might try a hot beverage. In animal studies, green tea and cocoa extract have shown antidepressant potential. More research is needed to know if these beverages are effective in treating humans. 

Get Outdoors

Interacting with nature can improve your mood and cognitive function.

Sunlight can also help ease your depression symptoms. In fact, decreased daylight is a major factor in seasonal affective disorder. Getting enough sun can boost your energy and help you feel more alert.

Social Contact

People who feel depressed tend to isolate themselves from others. However, face-to-face interaction with friends and family can significantly improve and stabilize your mental health.

Express Your Emotions

Expressing your emotions can help you control and understand what you’re feeling as well as improve your mood. There are several methods that might help you express your emotions:

  • Journaling
  • Attending local support groups
  • Confiding in a family member or friend

If none of these methods help, it might be time to see a licensed therapist who can offer you better guidance and strategies for coping.

Alternative Treatments and Techniques 

Many alternative therapies and practices are used to treat depression. Their effectiveness varies from person to person:

When to See a Doctor

Depression is a serious condition that may require prescription medication or formal therapy. While you should feel free to talk to your doctor about depression for any reason, be sure to seek your doctor’s input if: 

  • Symptoms persist for more than two weeks
  • You have experienced thoughts of suicide and/or put a plan in place
  • Depression is interfering with your ability to take care of yourself or others
  • You have recently undergone a change in medication
  • You experience extreme mood swings
  • You experience physical symptoms other than fatigue 

Certain illnesses can mimic depression, so it’s a good idea to rule out alternative causes when you experience depression symptoms.

Emergency Care

If depression has caused you to harm yourself, consider suicide, or consider harming yourself in any way, call 9-1-1 immediately. You can also contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline for immediate assistance: 1-800-273-TALK or 1-800-273-8255.

WebMD Medical Reference

Sources

SOURCES:

American Psychiatric Association: “What Is Depression?”

Archives of General Psychiatry: “Complementary Therapies for Depression: An Overview.”

Current Opinion in Psychiatry: “The gut microbiome and diet in psychiatry.”

Harvard Health Publishing: “Diet and depression.”

Harvard Health Publishing: “Nutritional psychiatry: Your brain on food.”

Environmental Health: “Effect of sunlight exposure on cognitive function among depressed and non-depressed participants: a REGARDS cross-sectional study.”

Journal of Affective Disorders: “A review of lifestyle factors that contribute to important pathways associated with major depression: Diet, sleep and exercise.”

Journal of Affective Disorders: “Interacting with Nature Improves Cognition and Affect for Individuals with Depression.”

Mayo Clinic: “Antidepressants: Selecting one that’s right for you.”

Mayo Clinic: “Depression and anxiety: Exercise eases symptoms.”

Mayo Clinic: “Depression (major depressive disorder).”

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

Nutritional Neuroscience: “Natural products, micronutrients, and nutraceuticals for the treatment of depression: A short review.”

Psychiatria Polska: “Herbal remedies in depression - State of the art.”

Scientific Reports: “Depressive symptoms are associated with social isolation in face-to-face interaction networks.”

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