Complementary and alternative treatments (CAT) for Depression | MyDepressionTeam

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Complementary and alternative treatments (CAT) are popular with many people who have depression. CAT modalities for depression may include herbal or nutritional supplements, acupuncture, yoga, and meditation.

Before you choose to try a complementary or alternative therapy, it is important to check with your doctor. Some herbs and supplements can cause dangerous interactions with medications.

What does it involve?
At this time, several complementary and alternative treatments are accepted by doctors as potentially benefiting some people with depression.

St. John’s Wort is an herb popular as a treatment for depression. Many people also try S-adenosylmethionine (SAMe), a synthetic form of a compound that occurs in the body. Omega-3 fatty acids are nutrients found in some fish, seeds, and nuts. All three of these supplements are available at pharmacies.

Acupuncture is a traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) practice that has been used for thousands of years to treat a wide range of illnesses. During an acupuncture treatment, you will lie still on a table. A trained acupuncturist or TCM practitioner will insert fine needles into the skin or connective tissue just beneath the skin. The needles are left in the skin for up to 30 minutes. Different regions of the skin are targeted during acupuncture depending on the condition being treated. The practitioner may gently twist or move the needles. Heat or electricity may be applied to the needles. Acupuncture is usually painless.

Yoga consists of moving your body into an array of different positions that provide stretching and various levels of challenge for strength, flexibility, and balance. Controlled breathing is another important aspect of yoga. Some yoga teachers incorporate aspects of meditation designed to reduce stress. There are many types of yoga and many different teaching styles. You may need to ask several questions before finding an appropriate class and an experienced teacher who understands what poses will work best for your condition. You may also practice yoga at home using a book or online videos as guidance. However, if you learn yoga in a class first, you will have the opportunity to ask questions and receive feedback about your poses.

Meditation is a practice that involves clearing the mind or focusing on guided imagery. Meditation can be practiced at home or in classes.

Some people claim that one alternative therapy or another reduces the symptoms of their depression. However, most complementary therapy modalities have not been studied in rigorous clinical trials to establish their safety and effectiveness.

Herbal supplements are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration. Their safety and effectiveness have not been evaluated. The strength and purity of the ingredients may vary from brand to brand or batch to batch.

Some complementary and alternative treatments can cause interactions with medications. For instance, St. John’s wort can interfere with birth control, blood thinners, antidepressants, chemotherapy, and HIV drugs. Some CAT modalities may exacerbate other health conditions.

Health insurance may not cover complementary therapies. Some alternative treatment options can be expensive.

Depending on where you live, it may be difficult to travel to a yoga or meditation class or acupuncturist.


Depression (major depressive disorder), Alternative medicine – Mayo Clinic

Depression – National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health

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