Each product we feature has been independently selected and reviewed by our editorial team. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.
Many alternative depression therapies, like yoga, are free and have no side effects.

Many alternative depression therapies, like yoga, are free and have no side effects.(ISTOCKPHOTO)

People give many reasons for turning to alternative therapies for depression, but their usage is commonplace. A 2001 survey in the American Journal of Psychiatry estimated that more than one-third of Americans use complementary and alternative medicinal treatments each year. Complementary and alternative medicines for depression and anxiety include: relaxation techniques, self-help groups, hypnosis, massage, exercise, and yoga in addition to dietary modifications, aromatherapy, folk remedies, spiritual healing, laughter, and oral medications. Some are more invasive and riskier than others: The herbal remedy St. Johns wort, for example, has been shown to be effective in the treatment of mild to moderate depression, but it can have adverse interactions with other medications.

The American Journal of Psychiatry surveyed 2,055 adults with severe depression and found that 53.6% used alternative therapies for treatment. More than 60% of patients with severe depression seen by a psychiatrist also incorporated some form of these therapies into their treatment. The research is limited, but more people surveyed turned to alternative and complementary therapies than to conventional treatments. They also found alternative therapies to be of comparable effectiveness to traditional therapies.

Why are alternative therapies so popular?
Traditional therapy and medication can be expensive, and not everyone has insurance coverage. Plus, many of the prescribed medications can have adverse side effects such as weight gain and sexual dysfunction. Many patients seek a more natural way of coping with depression. Pregnant and nursing women in particular have to be concerned about how medications could affect breast-feeding.

An integrated approach
Alternative therapies, whether alone or in addition to conventional treatments, are helping people cope with depression, but they often have side effects and sometimes take a while to work. “Theres no magic bullet for depression,” says James S. Gordon, MD, founder of the Center for Mind-Body Medicine and author of Unstuck: Your Guide to the Seven-Stage Journey Out of Depression. "Its not just about a single supplement or single intervention, otherwise, its the same mentality as the drug mentality. Depression is a wake-up call, a sign that your life is out of balance." Alternative therapies combined with professional treatment can help restore balance to your life.