Coping Methods

7 Non-Invasive Alternatives to Antidepressants

Non-Invasive Alternatives to Antidepressants | Hopeful Panda

Depression is one of the most common effects of childhood abuse. And a standard treatment method for it is antidepressants. But there are non-invasive alternatives to antidepressants out there if antidepressants aren’t for you for whatever reason.

Depression is something I’ve struggled with for as long as I can remember. But personally, I’ve never taken antidepressants because I saw the effects they had on some people I knew.

Of course, this is my personal experiences and opinions. Antidepressants have been effective for plenty of other people. And if it works for you, that’s great.

But if antidepressants are something that you don’t like, are not comfortable trying, or have trouble accessing at the moment, there are various alternatives you can consider.

This post will discuss some possible side effects of antidepressants and explore some non-invasive alternatives to them.

Please note that I am not a medical or mental health professional. The content in this post should not be taken as medical or professional advice.

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Possible Side Effects of Antidepressants

Antidepressants can be an effective way to treat depression. But certain people may find that the type of antidepressant they’re prescribed could cause unwanted side effects.

This can depend on the medication and how the person reacts to it on a personal level.

Common side effects of antidepressants include nausea, weight gain, insomnia, dry lips, balance issues, and distorted vision. Some people who take them may also not like how it makes them feel or worry about becoming addicted to them over time.

Some evidence also suggests that a common type of antidepressant, SSRIs (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors), may increase the risk of suicidality in certain people.

Due to these possible effects, it makes sense why some people may not be keen on taking antidepressants and instead prefer to look for alternatives that aren’t invasive.

1. Talking Therapies

Talking therapies are a well-known and non-invasive way to treat depression. As the name suggests, this approach involves talking to a trained mental health professional about your issues and feelings, and how to best manage and cope with them.

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is one form of talking therapy that can help those who struggle with depression.

It involves concentrating on the close links between your feelings, thoughts, and behavior. It can teach you to recognize and adjust your negative thoughts and behaviors. You can connect with a certified therapist here.

If you’re not interested, there are also alternatives to traditional talk therapy you can check out like creative and expressive therapies such as art or music therapy.

2. Exercise

Another non-invasive alternative to antidepressants is exercise.

When you look at the potential benefits of working out for your overall health – physically and mentally – this isn’t a surprise.

Exercising helps you feel better about yourself by enhancing your feelings of self-worth. It also releases feel-good endorphins into your body, which improves your mood and helps reduce feelings of depression and anxiety.

Additionally, focusing on specific exercises you’re doing at the moment can help distract you from what might be troubling you at the moment. It can help you avoid dwelling on negative or depressing feelings you may be experiencing.

There are many great exercise options you can do, from jogging to swimming to aerobics. Try to find something that you enjoy and incorporate it into your daily life.

3. tDCS

Another non-invasive alternative to antidepressants that can be effective in tackling depression is tDCS (Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation).

tDCS involves electrodes being placed on the scalp that sends small, safe electrical currents to the part of the brain that regulates mood. This, in turn, modifies activity in this part of the brain, which can potentially help reduce feelings of depression.

Although this kind of non-invasive treatment is relatively new, research has shown that it can be effective. For example, this study suggests that tDCS could be effective in treating depressive episodes.

4. Ashwagandha

Ayurveda is an ancient system of medicine from India that focuses on natural ways to keep people physically and mentally healthy.

Ashwagandha is an herb used in Ayurveda for its potential to reduce feelings of depression and boost mood.

This herb is thought to work by controlling cortisol levels to reduce anxiety and positively impact levels of dopamine and serotonin in the body.

A randomized, double-blind study into the efficacy of Ashwagandha for treating anxiety concluded that a full-spectrum, high-concentration dose of this herb substantially reduced stress levels.

This also suggests that it can have similarly positive effects on people struggling with depression or depressive symptoms.

5. Omega-3

Another alternative to antidepressants is supplementing omega-3s.

Research completed in this area to date suggests that higher levels of omega-3 in your body can have a positive effect on reducing feelings of depression.

For example, a 2004 study about omega-3 fatty acids and depression concluded that fatty acids found in omega-3s could improve symptoms of depression in most of the people tested.

Since omega-3 is a type of oil found in fish, adding fatty fish such as mackerel, herring, anchovies, sardines, and salmon to your diet is the best way to get more omega-3s.

If you don’t like fish or can’t afford to eat it regularly, you can also opt for omega-3 supplements.

6. Mindfulness

The constant rumination we tend to engage in as child abuse survivors can no doubt trigger symptoms of depression sometimes. And unsurprisingly, it can have a negative impact on our mental health for different reasons.

Dwelling on the past or worrying about the future can make it hard to move forward and heal. The often recommended way to avoid these thoughts is by practicing mindfulness.

Mindfulness involves learning to stay in the moment and pay attention to what is happening right now in a non-judgmental way.

Using mindfulness in your daily life enables you to stop, or at least worry less, about the past or future. Hopefully, it can help reduce your depressive symptoms and positively impact your mental health.

Related: Mindfulness Exercises for Healing from Childhood Abuse

7. Social Support

As I’ve mentioned time and time again, social support is absolutely essential in one’s healing journey, and in this case, dealing with depression.

Social support is a great alternative to antidepressants because of its profound impact on mental and emotional well-being.

Personally, meaningful and supportive relationships in my life were a huge factor in helping me deal with my depression and begin healing.

Having a social support network can provide validation, reduce feelings of loneliness, reduce stress, and provide encouragement and motivation. It is also associated with better physical health.

Humans are inherently social creatures. So it’s not surprising that our connections with others will play a significant role in shaping our psyche.

A 2009 study stated that social support plays an important role in recovery for a range of physical and mental health conditions including depression.

7 Alternatives to Antidepressants | Hopeful Panda

A Combined Approach

In most cases, a combined approach of these alternatives to antidepressants might be needed.

Treating depression is not easy. And unfortunately, there is no cure. So unsurprisingly, it cannot be solved with a one size fits all approach. As a result, a combination of different therapies or approaches may be needed for the best results.

For instance, just including more exercise in your life may not be enough. Maybe you also want to try out tDCS and/or mindfulness.

It’s usually recommended to confide in a certified therapist first to discuss which treatment options you would prefer and which would work best for you.

Depression is different for everyone, so it will require a tailored approach to tackle it.


Please do your own research and talk to your doctor and/or therapist before utilizing any of the non-invasive alternatives to antidepressants listed in this post.

For instance, before taking any herbs or supplements mentioned here, check that they are safe to consume, especially in combination with other medication or dietary supplements you may be taking.

Whatever route you end up taking, remember that managing your depression is essential. It’s not just for healing, but for your ultimate well-being and quality of life.

And although your trauma may be the cause of the depression itself, trying to move forward while depressed can be excruciatingly difficult. It can feel like too much at once.

Building a happier and healthier life after childhood abuse is possible. But it can be difficult to know where to start when you’re dealing with depression.

Back then, I didn’t even understand why I was depressed. I was just so caught up in feeling miserable that I couldn’t even comprehend that my abusive upbringing was the root cause of it all.

It wasn’t until I started finding ways to cope with my depression that I started being able to see the bigger picture – why I was the way I was and how I can begin moving forward.

So it might be better to be able to manage your depression first. Then, once you’re in a better enough place, you can start working towards healing from the abuse you experienced.

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Hi there, I’m Estee. Having grown up with an abusive mother, I know how isolating, frustrating, and hopeless everything could feel – back then as a child and even now as an adult.

I am always trying to better understand and manage the effects of the abuse I experienced. And this journey I’m on inspired me to create Hopeful Panda. Learn more here.

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