AlternativesAs well as getting help from a doctor or counsellor, you may want to try some of these alternative types of support.
Other types of help you could try
Many little things contribute to reinforcing the depression habit spiral and it makes sense therefore that many little things will contribute to reversing that spiral. It isn’t likely that just one form of help will be the ‘cure’. The following are offered as ideas for consideration, not endorsements. It is best to undertake alternatives as part of an agreed programme supported by a healthcare professional.
Other face-to-face help
A variety of professionals may be able to offer expertise which helps to address aspects of the depression habit spiral.
Some university health centres and counselling services work with the university sports centre staff to offer tailored exercise programmes for depression. Exercise programmes are recommended as an initial treatment for depression by the NHS guidelines*. Trained sports centre staff should also be able to help you plan an appropriate exercise programme if you approach them independently.
Aromatherapy and massage
Massage referrals are offered by some innovative university counselling services. Massage can be very beneficial to aid stress management and relaxation, as well as breaking the isolation of depression in a very direct hands-on way.
You could ask your doctor for a referral to a nutritionist. A trained nutritionist should be able to give detailed advice about food and mood links. You could also get help with working out an eating plan that suits you and your budget. However, beware of nutritionists who wish to sell you expensive supplements.
A support group consists of people with similar experiences who meet regularly to support each other. Some may be facilitated by healthcare professionals, or by support group members who have received training. Though support groups can be tremendously beneficial, be aware of the limitations of any support group without professional facilitation. A support group should not be seen as a source of professional therapy.
Other alternative practitioners
There is a very wide variety of alternative therapists. Always check the credentials, training and professional standing of any alternative therapist you consult. Bona fide practitioners will be only too happy to discuss this with you. Try to get personal recommendations or referrals if possible.
Remember that just because something is “natural” does not mean that it doesn’t have the potential for harm. Even vitamin supplements can be overdosed.
St John’s Wort
NHS guidelines recognise that there is evidence for the effectiveness of St John’s Wort as an anti-depressant for mild or moderate depression. However, the NHS guidelines in the UK do not recommend or advise its use. This is because of uncertainty about the appropriate doses and big variations in the strengths of different preparations. Also there is the potential for serious interaction with other medications, including the contraceptive pill*.
Omega 3 & 6 supplements
Research has shown links between depression and low levels of omega 3 & 6 oils*. However, supplements can be expensive and it is probably better to aim to adjust your diet to address this. See the food and mood page for ideas.
Many people report worsening depression over the winter months, and there is a specific depression diagnosis called seasonal affective disorder which seems directly linked to low levels of exposure to natural light. Bright light therapy using special light boxes which simulate natural light has been found useful by some people with this specific condition. The light boxes are fairly expensive, so it would be best to check with a doctor for a specific diagnosis before investing in one.
Various other “natural” and homeopathic remedies are available, but there is no evidence for their effectiveness and they are often expensive.