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Alternatives to antidepressants

post #1 of 38
Thread Starter 
I recently found out that my 3 sisters are all on some sort of antidepressant. I am wondering what alternatives there are to drugs like Zoloft and Welbutrin. My youngest sister takes those, as well as some things to counteract some of their side effects. She just told me that, but she doesn't want our mom to know. One of my sister's is bipolar, and we honestly believe that our mother is as well. I have lived with several bipolar people, who also had other problems (eating disorders, drug addictions, compulsive shoplifting and borderline personality disorder) that caused them to be hospitalized at times, but my sister and mom are not anywhere like that, although my sister does call in sick at times and ends up losing her job occasionally. But usually it is because she has real health problems. My mother doesn't really have manic periods, but she has cyclical rages which can be a part of bipolar, so I'm told.

Anyway, I got into a long discussion with my youngest sister while she was here about what was normal and she says she always thought I was mentally healthy but now has her doubts. I told her that figuring out how you would kill yourself if you had to isn't unusual, but she disagrees with me. I have been accused of having some personality quirks in the past (one sister told me I needed anger management, and my mom says I'm sadistic and have a sick sense of humor). I notice that if I don't exercise for periods of time, I really do start to get depressed and sometimes have a hard time functioning in day to day chores, but when I worked outside the home I always went to work because I didn't want to lose my job, and it wasn't much of an issue. I feel like maybe part of what is going on is that I may not be happy with my living situation, I don't know.

Anyway, I'm interested in seeing what kinds of alternatives there are to drugs like Zoloft, Wellbutrin, Paxil, Prozac and the like. I know so many people who take these, and I don't know why usage is so high. I'd like to know about homeopathic and holistic approaches.
post #2 of 38
Omega 3 Fatty Acids and light therapy are two things that are mentioned in a book that I am readin about bi-polar children. There was an article recently that my mom sent me aboiut different foods that had beneficial affects on mental health, but I can't remember what exactly they were.
post #3 of 38

homeopathy for depression

I would think that a very skilled homeopath could be very helpful in this scenario. I dont think that self-treating with homepathy would be though. The homeopath needs to be able to do a full history in order to prescribe the right remedy. It's a process and it could last for months depending on which rememdies are chosen and used, but I have heard of several successful outcomes using homeopathy for depression.
post #4 of 38
I also have a genetic factor in my clinical depression. Looking back, I have dealt with it off and on all my life, especially the anxiety aspect, but didn't realize it since I didn't feel "depressed."

I too have heard that light therapy and omega 3s are good, as is exercise -- it helps boost seretonin levels. I personally am on Lexapro, the next generation Celexa, and am very happy on it. It seems to make me myself most of the time. I know that sounds crazy, but it's true. I don't feel like myself if I'm not on it. I'm not that person I was prior to being diagnosed and hospitalized a few months ago. I also take Ativan occasionally when the anxiety about my health gets overwhelming.

I am happy for those who can manage their depression through natural methods. Unfortunately, I am not one of them.
post #5 of 38
I noticed you mentioned exercise helps. If you can keep the depression away with diet, exercise and relaxation techniques, I highly recommend it. Don't get too far down, it's hard to get back up.

I'm using those types of things to keep my depression away right now. It really sucks having a newborn in winter because I can't go for my walks as much anymore!

I took wellbutrin and loved it. I hate the thought of taking medication, but it helped so much. I took therapy to learn how to deal with stress, and to recognize when I need to rest my poor brain and body too.

I read "the highly sensitive person" by Elaine N. Aron, and I feel much better now from that too. It explains how some of us (25% of the population) are more sensitive to stimulation, noise, etc. and how that can effect how we feel.

I wanted to add that I know someone who has suggested some homeopathic remedies that are ancient, you can see her web site at

Good luck to you!
post #6 of 38
Thread Starter 

Re: homeopathy for depression

Originally posted by pioneermama
I would think that a very skilled homeopath could be very helpful in this scenario. I dont think that self-treating with homepathy would be though. The homeopath needs to be able to do a full history in order to prescribe the right remedy. It's a process and it could last for months depending on which rememdies are chosen and used, but I have heard of several successful outcomes using homeopathy for depression.
Good point. I don't use homeopathy and don't have a homeopath, and I honestly don't know if there is one in my area, but in So Cal it seemed to be more common and I knew people who did. Finding a good practioner would be the first step. I was just curious if anyone thought this would be a good avenue to pursue. So far I've never tried anything along the lines of chiropractic care or acupuncture, and I don't seem to go to the doctor much either, come to think of it.
post #7 of 38
I have had ordinary old situational depression at times in the past, and taking 5-HTP before bed every night seems to help me a lot. I take it for a couple of months and usually by then the situation has changed enough that I don't need it anymore. I was not pregnant/nursing at the time though, and I haven't done any research on it to see what the effects are on babes.
post #8 of 38
I feel silly for asking, but what are HTP? I'm not on anything right now, and would like to keep stuff in mind just in case!
post #9 of 38
I too have read alot about omega-3s and depression and think it is worth a try. Flax seed is the richest source and is easy to add to any food. I mix it in with smoothies cereal etc.
Getting daily exercise is treatment also maybe try to arrange to exercise with someone else so you can't talk yourself out of it so easily (my personal weakness). I started taking a pilates/yoga class a few months ago it made me feel so much better plus I got away from home for a while.
A friend of mine was prescribed triptofan sp? by her naturopathic physician for depression and mood swings. It is the same chemical found in turkey that makes everyone mellow after thanksgiving dinner. She tried several mainstream meds as well because insurance doesnt cover the triptophan but she thinks it works far better. It is an unusual remedy and requires a prescription but maybe worth investigating.hope you feel better soon!
post #10 of 38
This is exciting, but no supplements to take, you have to include the foods mentioned on the site in your diet, and most I just love!!
If this is available in prescription form, can I get the prescription from my doc, or who can I get it from!

Tryptophan is an essential amino acid. It is not manufactured by the body and must be obtained in adequate quantities through the diet.

L-tryptophan is the base metabolic precursor of serotonin. The supplement 5-HTP is a metabolite of tryptophan and is used directly by the body to make the neurotransmitter serotonin (5-HT). This explains the use of triptophan for brain neurotransmitter effects.

Tryptophan has been used to relieve insomnia. It was also used for premenstrual syndrome, stress, depression and jet lag.

Foods rich in L-tryptophan include turkey, pumpkin seeds, bananas, figs, dates, yogurt, tuna, whole grains and nut butter.

Typical supplementation is about 2 g daily.
post #11 of 38
I think antidepressants are so popular because they're cheaper and more convenient than therapy, and because it's more convenient to pop a pill than to fix what's really bothering you, whether it's a psychological issue or unhealthy lifestyle.

The currently popular antidepressants are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) meaning that they work by preventing the neurotransmitter serotonin from being reabsorbed so that it remains in the synapse longer and its effects are felt longer--it basically makes you feel calm and happy. My estimate is that only 10-25% of Americans taking SSRIs actually have a chemical imbalance of the brain; the drugs will be effective for almost anyone by changing brain chemistry, but that doesn't mean this change is a good idea in a normal brain. The results of animal studies are disturbing, and the very-long-term effects in humans are unknown.

My #1 recommendation to people who feel depressed or anxious is to look for the cause. If life has been traumatic or stressful, it's better to avoid SSRIs and try to resolve the stress and have a healthy lifestyle while going to therapy. Be alert for negative self-statements, which means telling yourself in your head things like, "I'm a terrible person," "Nothing good ever happens to me." If there is no evident trauma or stress or negative self-statements, and your lifestyle is pretty healthy with no changes made at the time when the problem started, I would still try every other method of treatment before SSRIs. If depression/anxiety is so acute that you really can't function, take an SSRI for a brief period, like 3 months, AND get therapy.

Cognitive therapy is a good technique for ending negative self-statements. It helps you recognize them and contradict them. Find a therapist to help you learn how to do this, and/or read Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy by David Burns (I think ).

Omega-3s are important, esp. if you eat a low-fat diet. Your brain needs a certain amount of fat for optimal functioning.

Low-carb diets also can be hard on the brain, esp. serotonin production. Eat complex carbs like rice and potatoes. You don't have to eat them constantly to get the effect--you can eat them when you feel particularly low and feel a rapid improvement.

Light therapy is for people who feel sadder in the winter or who spend a lot of time away from natural light (i.e. working in a windowless office). Seasonal Affective Disorder is the name for this type of depression.

Exercise definitely helps. For me, it makes a big difference to take just 10 seconds to stretch my arms up as high as I can and bring them down in a big circle.

If you're anxious or overwhelmed-depressed because it seems like life is too complicated and everything's spiraling out of control, enlist someone (if not a therapist, a loving supportive person) to help get your expectations under control. Make a big list of all the things you "have to" do, and discuss w/helper to categorize them as things you actually HAVE TO keep up with on a regular basis, things you can be more relaxed about, and things you can delegate or just forget! Then have helper make a list of the 3 things you are going to do each day for a week (they can be different things each day) and consider that your assignment. You have to do those things, and you're not allowed to goof off until you finish them, but you do NOT have to do ANYTHING else. When you finish those 3 things, you may be surprised at how much energy you have and how you want to do other things.

Try scheduling a melt-down hour every day. If kids are old enough, make a "do not disturb" sign and explain that when you put up the sign they may not come in unless it's an emergency. Spend melt-down hour writing down everything that's bothering you, crying, etc. At the end of the hour, wash your face, do a big stretch, and get back to life!

Regardless of the underlying cause of depression or anxiety, it usually helps to identify things that particularly bother you and avoid them, and to identify things that comfort you and keep them handy for your worst moments. Sometimes, esp. for women, feeling that there's something wrong w/you for not being happier leads you to suppress urges to object to bad stuff or insist on good stuff, and that only makes it worse!!

St. John's Wort is an herbal anti-depressant that's been found as effective as SSRIs in clinical studies in Germany. I've never taken it myself but have heard good things about it from everyone who has.

Kava Kava is an herbal relaxant. Reviews of its effectiveness are mixed, and it has some health risks similar to alcohol. I wouldn't recommend taking it consistently, only for episodes of serious anxiety, esp. if accompanied by muscular tension.

Tryptophan is an amino acid that is converted into serotonin by the body or acts like serotonin (I forget which!). While it's available by prescription, it's probably better to get it from natural sources: poultry or fish eaten with complex carbohydrate. I don't know of any vegetarian sources. I often feel happier after eating rice w/mushrooms (regular white button mushrooms) but I don't know if that means anything chemically or it's just a comfort food for me!

to all!
post #12 of 38
Wow, I gotta say you know your stuff! Thank you! Good reminders in that post as far as the "happy hour" ie: melt-down hour

I just wanted to add that St. John's Wort has been implicated in decreasing the effectiveness of the pill if you're taking it.

I also find valerian root is great right before bed time, I take it with a cup of chamomille tea.

Feeling good is a life style, a healthy one
post #13 of 38
I agree with the homeopath suggestion. You probably want to find a classic homeopath. The problem is that it can take a little while to kick in, and it may take a while to uncover the symptoms, as there may be more than one, and one rememdy per depression symptom. Some people don't want to wait, and if you've been on a med for a long time, you may not want to risk the change - of course, if you're bipolar, you're probably happy to get off the meds when you're "up".... The thing with homeopathy is that it isn't exclusive, you can take the antidepressants while seeing a homeopath and undergoing treatment. Homepaths are generally very familiar with other drugs as well and are aware of drug interactions.

Amy, I'd be happy to share my personal experience with you if you want to PM me. I can say that I experienced dramatic, side-effect free results and I'm very happy with it.

Other things I'd suggest are mineral difficiencies. A trace mineral supplement that includes an array of essentials plus others is a really good thing to get because it's not just essentials you could be short of. Also, diet - esp ire sugar, caffiene - these can have a huge effect on your metabolism, and hypoglylcemia is a symptom of depression, and the mood swings can make recovery more difficult.

Best wishes!

post #14 of 38
correction. it's not that it takes a while to kick in. that's an over simplification. You can notice results immediately, but generaly a recovery could take 3-6 months w/any homeopathic treatment bc one remedy may be uncovering a number of symptoms, and it works like a domino effect. Not antidoting the remedy will make it more effective, etc.

Working closely with a homeopath will be very effective to lower meds and talk out the issues. A homeopath takes a full description of the symptoms, but doesn't offer coping mechaisms, that's psychology. If you expect a psychology appointment, that can be a little frustrating, but if you know what they're after, it's easier to provide the info the will help.

post #15 of 38
yeah, I did notice the effect Valerian root had on me 15 min after I took it! The longer you do homeopathy, the better the lasting effects will be!
post #16 of 38
Tryptophan may only be available by prescription, but I can get 5-HTP at my local health food store. It's about $20 for a month's worth of capsules, but it's really worth it for me.
post #17 of 38
Just thought I'd mention SAM-e (sammy) - a lot of people have great results with it.
post #18 of 38
Thread Starter 
Thanks for all the suggestions. I was not aware of taking tryptophan for mood improvement--interesting. I have been using flax seed or flax seed oil, and for awhile I took salmon oil capsules or ate salmon, but it doesn't agree with me lately. I have an on again off again relationship with it, and lately all I can find is the farmed kind so I bypass it.

Today I finally went grocery shopping--it had been over 3 weeks since I last went. I went to Wild Oats and ate first before shopping, and had a lot of turkey. Not on purpose, just because I love turkey and thought it might be good even though I eat a vegetarian diet most of the time. But maybe this explains why I love turkey so much. I bought some fresh flax seed meal because my other stuff was old.

I've tried valerian root tea for my back pain, and I've tried kava kava before, but never noticed much effect. I've been kind of afraid to take St. John's Wort and I've never tried SAM-e

I actually think it is the serotonin reuptake inhibitor effect of Wellbutrin which is why both my sisters take it, not for depression but for appetite control. I remember there was a drug called Meridia that functioned in the same manner, but now it sounds like Wellbutrin is being prescribed in the same situations.
post #19 of 38

Just a note here that if Bi-polar or alcoholism runs in your family (especially on both sides) taking an anti-depressant without a mood stabelizer can cause mania. We found this out the hard way.
post #20 of 38
Just another side note:

Wellbutrin is also Zyban-used to quit smoking too. Wellbutrin is supposed to help with cravings. I found I lost weight on it.
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