Alternative Treatments for Depression and Anxiety Disorders

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There are other articles on this blog about treating anxiety and/or depression with cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), and motivational interviewing (MI) and hypnosis (including self-hypnosis). With this article, we will mainly cover few other therapy approaches not covered previously.

Ayurveda & Diet

Yet, it may be best to overlook ayurvedic medicine. It is somewhat complex and perhaps peculiar, even to those who are familiar with or open to alternative (in the West) treatments. According to ayurveda, anxiety, fear, mental instability and insomnia are a result of an imbalance in the vata; depression and lethargy are due to an imbalance in kapha; and irritability and anger arise from an imbalance in pitta.

These three things are the three doshas, or humors that make up the body.   Vata is supposedly the force or impulse principle that enacts the nervous system. It is referred to as the windy humor. Kapha is considered to be the body fluid principle and the carrier of nutrients. Pitta is the energy principle and the bilious humor, or what Westerners would generally recognize as primarily being the digestive system.

To rebalance the vata, you can adopt dietary guidelines given below:

1) avoid mixing starch with fruit at breakfast time–such as not taking toast with orange juice. (Why this can be done at other times is not explained.)

2) drink ginger tea with honey half and hour before meals. (What will happen if it is drunk 15 or 45 minutes beforehand is unknown.)

3) avoid drinking anything (especially milk) in between mouthfuls while eating. (My father-in-law always practised this, but he died at a relatively young age, so I can not recommend this.)

Perhaps more helpful and realistic are foods that can be taken:

1) sweet fruits: apricots, mango, oranges, papaya, peaches, plums, bananas, berries, grapes, pineapple, avocado, coconut, grapefruit, lemons

2) cooked vegetables: asparagus, okra, radish, beets, carrots, cucumber, green beans, sweet potato, zucchini, onion, garlic

3) rice, wheat and cooked oats

4) all seeds, sweeteners (except white sugar), dairy products, oils, and spices (not surprising, coming from India) are fine in moderation.

Perhaps even more helpful and relevant are recipes for recommended items:

1) Lassi: ½ cup cottage cheese, ½ cup plain yogurt, ¾ cup cool water, 1 tsp ground cumin powder, 1 tsp honey or 3 large pitted dates, ½ tsp lemon juice. Blend the cottage cheese, yogurt and water; add the other ingredients; blend once more and drink at room temperature.

2) soak 8-10 almonds in water overnight; peel off the skin and crush them the following morning; add 1 tsp of the crushed almonds to 1 cup warm milk; add a pinch of soaked saffron and 1 tbsp of honey; mix well and drink once each day.

3) take a glass of orange juice, add a tablespoon of honey and of nutmeg powder, and drink this daily. There are other options available if you want to rebalance your kapha or pitta, but those would make this article unnecessarily long and I do believe you now have the necessary framework if you want to pursue ayurveda as an alternative treatment.

Sam-e (S-adenosyl methionine) is not an herb but a substance that occurs naturally in the cells of plants, animals and humans. It has now been formulated as a supplement and, in the United States, as a dietary supplement which allowed the manufacturers to bypass the costly regulations of the FDA.

Although it is marketed as a dietary supplement, many people use it to treat depression, and the National Institutes of Health does acknowledge it as being likely effective for that. It can, however, have many side effects, the most common of which are nausea, diarrhea, flatulence, headache, anxiety and even mania (swings from depression to intense energy.

Exercise

Aerobic exercise: All exercise is always good, but aerobic exercise (exercise which requires oxygen, or breathing, to generate the energy necessary for the exercise, as opposed to anaerobic exercise, such as strength training and short-distance running) is even better for clinical depression and anxiety disorders.

Such exercise is stair climbing; indoor rowing; treadmill, walking, cycling, jogging, running, cross-country skiing or running, swimming, kickboxing, jumping rope, and others. However, this is far from being a cure-all, and should be used in conjunction with other treatments (alternative or otherwise).

Yoga:To rebalance the vata (as mentioned in the ayurvedic section above), you can try these named poses: Thunderbolt pose, Child’s pose, Cobra pose, Downward Facing Dog, Cat Stretching, and Leg Lock pose. You can also watch and follow this popular youtube video geared toward beginners.

There are also tips, or a body of philosophy, that comes with yoga and which are designed to alleviate anxiety disorders: breathe correctly; meditate; stay happy and enjoy every moment; pray, keep faith and smile; think about what you can do for others; understand the impermanence of the world; remember a situation in which you overcame anxiety; and surround yourself with positive people.

Therapy

Mind-body relaxation: Stress is a product of the mind, and can affect the body. Things that can negate this adverse relationship are guided imagery, meditation, tai chi, Lamaze breathing, repetitive prayer (like in a rosary and which my wife uses daily), and biofeedback.

Therapy: Although I have said that I dislike repeating myself, I do want to reiterate my preference for CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy). More recently, though, I learned of studies in which MI (motivational interviewing), when used in conjunction with CBT, is a symbiotic relationship and can enhance the latter.