February 14, 2005

Curious George: Medication Alternatives I'm looking for some info on dietary or other useful alternatives to taking medicaiton for depression and anxiety.

I have psychiatrist but I'm not going to see him for a good while. I just need some one to point me in the right direction.

  • Exercise. Being physically fit is probably the best thing you can do to fight depression. Also avoid or at least cut down on alcohol intake.
  • Some people swear by cutting out sugar, corn syrup, or other refined carbohydrates. Also caffeine. All of them can have a really dramatic effect on your mood that you don't even realize until you stop ingesting them.
  • Right. Or there's the other tack: increase your alcohol and drug intake. Just sayin'.
  • You've already had your last appointment for a while? I'm not sure I understand that part. You could ask the psych. too, if you get a chance first. ...I'd be wary of looking for magic bullets. But yeah, things that will help would definitely include exercise, eating well, maybe meditation, and sheer force of will. - heh, by that I mean knowing when to recognize when you're going into a bad place and what to tell yourself to get through it okay. But then, I had mostly cognitive behavioral therapy and loved it, so that's my bias.
  • You might find some useful things on this thread.
  • As a stopgap measure only, I found B-vitamins worked absolute wonders for me when I had what appeared to be Pill-induced PMDD. (I ran towards mild paranoia and irrational crying at stupid things.) Of course, YMMV and IANAD (although I work at a hospital and my family's medical.) I also found that exercise, even just walking and looking at trees, works well. Just so long as you're not bothered and there's not that many people around.
  • I try to regulate my own roller coastery moodiness with exercise, not eating crap and getting enough sleep. This only works if you actually do it, though, as I find that if I'm not careful one of the first things I do when I feel bad is to stop exercising, eat crap and become an insomniac. So you have to stay pretty aware of your mental state and force yourself to do something about it. I think this only works for mild to medium cases of the icks, not really bad ones.
  • As one who has fought depression most of her adult life, I can tell you that eating regularly, getting enough sleep, not allowing yourself to be stressed as much as possible, and getting into a routine are most helpful. Take a multi-vitamin and extra B complex--even twice a day for the B. Try to do something creative--paint, garden, knit, do woodworking, basketweaving, whatever--anything to produce something of beauty or usefulness. Set workable small goals for the future. Write them on paper. Most especially, plan something that you enjoy that you normally wouldn't do because of cost or difficulty. Put together a penny/change jar to save for it. Get outside in the sun at least an hour a day. Get outside in the rain or the snow. Outside is good for you. Rocket is right about the alcohol intake--alcohol is a depressant. Modify your consumption of coffee, sodas, and chocolate. Finally, the *Word* is exercise. At minimum 3-4 hours a week. Get an exercise buddy if necessary, or join a gym where you don't want to waste the sign-up money. Actually, if you can get into it, something everyday is best--even if it's just a half-hour walk--and a walk takes care of most of the Vitamin S for sunshine, too. If it's your bag, try something that releases endorphins. For me it's endurance riding--after a fifty mile ride I'm whipped, but the exhilaration lasts for two weeks. It also helps to have goals and to be doing something you enjoy with your exercise. If it's only a plan to meet with a friend to go hiking and try out your new leg muscles, that's worth walking every day for. I have to plan, save, and condition the horse for rides, and I love to camp, so everything works out for me to focus on something other than my crappy feelings. I know 2 marathon runners and a bicycle racer that are major depressives and they control it mostly with their endorphin stimulation. Again, GET INTO THE ROUTINE. My worst days are when I sit home and just do nothing or read a book. I'm an introvert, which makes it worse. That kind of behavior can cycle and make things worse, until I can't hardly function even with antidepressants. Go see a friend, get a cup of coffee, volunteer at the historical society, walk the dog. (pets are good for getting you out of yourself.) Good luck. (This good advice is brought to you by someone who knows it works, but ought to take what she says and heed it more often.)
  • Wurwilf: I meant to say I'm not going to have another appointment with my therapist for a good while, otherwise I would ask him (though it's within my power to call him (and, now that I think about it, e-mail), but I thought some first hand experience might be good too).
  • Thanks guys, so far this doesn't sound too bad..
  • I'll have to chime in on the exercise thing. I would also recommend getting enough sleep and not much more than needed. I find oversleeping and irregular sleep schedules screw with my mental equillibrium and exacerbates depresssion. I can't emphasize enough the importance of proper hydration, too. On preview, what GramMa said.
  • Try to accomplish something every day, even if it's as small as just getting out of bed and showering and putting on clean clothes, but make it something which will make you feel good that you've done it. Start small and work up. Baby steps and all that. Way ditto on exercise. Repetitive exercise is the only proven "cure" for depression. Think about the repetitive bouncing behavior of autistic or severely damaged people, it's perhaps an innate mechanism in response to severe anguish. I've found that depression can be an addictive behavior which can cause you to do things which perpetuate it, so talk to any addicts you may know or sit in on an AA meeting to learn about managing an addiction. I've found that it can be helpful to think about managing the depression rather than "curing" it. Like alcholism, diabetes, or other life conditions, you can make choices and actions which will on a day to day basis steer you away from the life-threatening severe consequences of your condition. Think of it as a manageable medical condition, and that will help you not get down on yourself which does no good. Try to identify behaviors or other things which acutely trigger the condition. If it's other people, be straight with them. If you were diabetic you'd need to have very serious talks with those people who kept shoving cake at you. On your part you'd have to figure out why you kept eating cake when you know it's way bad for you, and what might be a healthy substitute. Good luck.
  • Definitely follow everyone's advice on diet and exercise. It's amazing how much better you feel when you're properly nourished and knowing that you're actively taking care of yourself (even when it seems hard...). And I swear by cutting out sugar and refined carbohydrates, as cabingirl said. Personally, I went from trainwreck (I have a long-standing relationship with depression and anxiety) to feeling like I could conquer the world last summer (albeit not overnight) when I started the South Beach diet (which I know sounds like just another "fad diet", but has a really good premise.) Even if you're not trying to lose weight, it makes you really conscious of making good food choices, whole grains instead of refined flour, no processed foods, fresh produce, lean meats, moderation....I even found out that cooking is really fun and reduces my stress even further. Oh, and drink plenty of water too. If you're not opposed to herbal remedies, I've had a lot of success with some of the tinctures available in any Whole Foods-type place, or pharmacy that has extensive herbal collections. For me, the blend of passion-flower, barley, hops, etc...did the trick.
  • Can't add anything more useful about exercise and diet, but another voice never hurts.
  • Diet is very important. When I know I will have a stressful week at work, I make sure to have oatmeal for breakfast everyday - it's a good source of vitamin B. I'm middle-aged, fat and middle-management so oatmeal does it for me.
  • This just in: St John's wort is as good or better than some happy-pills. My medication works nicely, so I'm not going to be changing anything, but for those who are having trouble, perhaps it's worth a go.
  • Adding my voice to the exercise/eat wisely group- this combination can save your life in more ways than one! Also, St. John's Wort works wonders for me. I buy it in capsule form during the winter and grow it myself in the summer. Doesn't work for everyone, but it does work for many. Good luck to you!
  • Just be careful if you go the St. John's Wort route--it does seem to work nicely to help some people's moods, but if you take any other medication you need to ask your doctor first, because it can interfere with the function of a broad spectrum of drugs (see here). Don't mean to be an alarmist; it works well for a lot of people, but it can cause problems if you're on other medications.
  • Ditto for all the words on exercise, fresh air, routine and eating properly. I still take the pills but am stable and take less when life is under my control. When the mood gets too low I pack up the dog and we spend a few hours in the bush conversing with nature and working up a good sweat.
  • the dog and we spend a few hours in the bush conversing with nature and working up a good sweat Jesus, dxlifer, I have a really dirty mind, you know?
  • fedora, i'm a bit concerned ... are you on meds now, and are considering discontinuing them? PLEASE do not. bad idea. or, if you must, GRADUALLY wean yourself off them and expect that you will indeed have a recurrence of your symptoms if you stop the meds. why won't you see your doc for awhile? and how long? it's not like taking aspirin and just stopping it... these things affect your brain chemicals, and stopping them without a doc's direction is not advised. i speak from experience. trust me on this one.
  • Of course, too much exercise will make you look like Chuck Norris. And we all know what that can lead to.
  • In addition to the diet and exercise advice, which I follow moderately well when not under stress, but which unfortunately I seem unable to follow when stressed, there is pretty good research evidence for B12 supplementation, and supplementation with Omega 3 fatty acids (especially in the form of fish oil-- but be sure to buy guarenteed mercury free). The best research, which is still pretty small scale, points to about a gram of EPA (an ingredient in fish oil) daily. I don't know the dosage for B12. Over my lifespan, I've had eight major depressive episodes lasting over a year each, as well as lots of dysthymia. I am under a huge amount of stress right now, but am doing well on just my regular antidepressant (which usually fail me under stress) and a fish oil supplement. Good luck.
  • i really cannot add much, everyone has said what i was thinking. if you live in a place where there isn't much sun, buy yourself a subscription to a tanning salon and go for 15 mins 3 times a week. it will really help with seasonal disorder. i highly recommend exercise too.
  • SideDish I went off the meds over a year ago and I'm not seeing my doc because I want to see if I really want to continue you therapy with him. I wasn't taking it seriously so if I decide to go back now I'll hopefully have a better reason to, but I don't have any right now. Thanks for your concern, though. So far I'm hearing all I need is to shot-gun cans of tuna fish, do more drugs and alcohol, and spend a few hours each week workin' on sweaty bush...thanks Monkeyfilter :)
  • Exercise, twice a day, strecth morning + 15min routine, strecth all through out the day, job at night 20 min. Balence diet, more greens for you probably, more fibre, stew is good. Hot sauce is good also gets the metabilism going, accelerates system. Tanning. Cocooning to minimum. (I've been mainlineing Monkey filter personally). A vegatable garden is good for summer. In the old days the doc' would say "have a Coke, have a smile!" You can still get Coke nowadays, but where would one procure the cocain to go with it?
  • considering that I am currently attending grad school to study traditional chinese medicine, I feel obligated to recommend finding a good acupuncturist/herbalist. I also feel I should mention that it can be unwise to do any self-experimentation with herbal remedies. They can be quite powerful medicines and should only be used under the advice of an educated herbalist (make sure they are up to date on herb/drug interactions.) email me if you have any specific questions about TCM or would like info regarding finding a practitioner. good luck.