Understanding Depression and Natural Antidepressants
Depression affects one in fifteen adults each year and one in six people at least once in their life. This mental illness can occur at any time; however, it generally first appears during adolescence (late teens to mid-twenties). Depression causes feelings of sadness, loss of interest in activities that once brought enjoyment, and impairments in daily life and routines.1
Natural antidepressants are natural alternatives to antidepressant medications, such as vitamins and supplements, which people use to address medical conditions. Many are available over the counter or provided by herbalists, naturopaths, and other healers who promote natural remedies.
Natural Antidepressant Efficacy
There is limited research surrounding the effectiveness of natural antidepressants. Numerous studies have shown positive results and improvements in symptoms with various natural antidepressants, including St. John’s wort and DHEA. Although some indicate using natural treatments for depression provides symptom relief, more research is needed to help determine the efficacy and possible side effects of natural antidepressants.
The Most Common Natural Antidepressants
Many potential natural remedies are available for depression treatment. However, some natural alternatives to antidepressants may not interact safely with other prescription drugs. Additionally, most natural antidepressants are not approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat depression. Thus, people should talk to a medical or mental health provider before taking natural supplements to treat depression, especially if they already take prescription medication.
Common examples of natural depression supplements include:
St. John’s Wort
St. John’s wort is an herbal supplement that may be useful for mild to moderate depression. Multiple studies have shown St. John’s wort to improve symptoms in at least 60% of participants. St. John’s wort should be used with caution, as it can have adverse reactions when combined with various medications.2
SAMe is short for the chemical S-adenosylmethionine, a naturally occurring chemical in the body. More research is needed to determine if SAMe is helpful for depression symptoms. SAMe should not be taken with prescription antidepressants, and it may trigger mania in those with bipolar disorder.
Omega-3 Fatty AcidsOmega-3 fatty acids are found in fish, nuts, and other foods. Studies are ongoing to determine if they are an effective natural depression supplement. Although generally safe for most people, they can have adverse impacts when interacting with other medications.
SaffronSome studies show that saffron extract is an effective natural antidepressant supplement; however, more research is needed, as with many other natural remedies for depression.
5-HTP5-HTP, or 5-hydroxytryptophan, may increase serotonin levels. Because serotonin is a chemical that affects mood, it may improve depression. However, there are notable concerns about possible neurological side effects of 5-HTP use.
DHEADHEA, or dehydroepiandrosterone, is a naturally occurring hormone in the body. Changes in DHEA levels have been linked to depression symptoms. Early study results suggest DHEA supplements may help improve symptoms but may also cause side effects, some of which can be severe.3
Depressive Disorders Classifications
Depression is a mood disorder that affects how people think, feel, and behave. Depression and its associated illnesses cause feelings of sadness or hopelessness that can last for varying lengths of time, ranging from a few days to a few years. Some people may only experience a case of depression once in their lives—others may have several severe episodes over their lifetime. The following includes the several depressive disorder classifications:
Major Depressive DisorderMajor depressive disorder is a highly recurring illness, with as many as half of those who experience one depressive episode having one or more additional episodes throughout their lifetime. Current research indicates each subsequent episode further increases the risk for ongoing future episodes. For example, an individual who has had two episodes is 70% more likely to experience further episodes—that number increases to 90% after the third episode.4
Disruptive Mood Dysregulation DisorderDisruptive mood dysregulation disorder (DMDD) is a type of depression that occurs during childhood, with diagnoses given between six and eighteen years old. Symptoms of DMDD include irritability, tantrums, anger, and other intense mood changes. These symptoms must occur for twelve months or more to meet the diagnostic criteria for DMDD.
Persistent Depressive Disorder
Persistent depressive disorder, previously called dysthymic disorder, is characterized by experiencing a less severe but long-term depressed mood for a minimum of two years or more. Persistent depressive disorder may include episodes of major depression followed by less severe symptoms and continue well beyond what is required for a major depression diagnosis. It is estimated that 2.5% of US adults experience persistent depressive disorder at some point in their lives.5
Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder
Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) is a severe and often debilitating form of depression connected to premenstrual syndrome. PMDD leads to extreme shifts in mood that can damage relationships and cause disruptions in day-to-day life.
In addition to the above, depression can also occur due to various underlying medical and mental health conditions.
Depression Prevention and Treatment
Depression is a complex mental health condition with many potential risk factors, including social, genetic, and psychological contributions. For this reason, research has not found a singular strategy for fighting depression that is effective for everyone. Nonetheless, there are some tips to help prevent depression and treatment options available to treat depression.
Some Tips That May Help Reduce the Risk of Depression
The following includes a few tips to help reduce the risk of depression:
- Avoid stress—know your limits and take breaks
- Meditate and practice mindfulness
- Exercise regularly
- Get enough sleep
- Maintain a healthy diet
- Seek therapy when needed
- Avoid stimuli and situations that may trigger symptoms of depression
Treatment for Depression at AMFM Treatment
At AMFM Treatment, we strive to create a positive, healthy, and safe environment to help clients overcome mental illness. Our team of highly qualified clinicians provides twenty-four-hour individualized care to ensure each client receives personalized and compassionate treatment. We offer a variety of evidence-based and holistic treatments for depression, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), psychopharmacological treatment, self-soothing coping skills, and fitness.
If you or a loved one struggles with depression and are interested in learning more about the best depression treatment options, contact us at AMFM today.