FAQ: Can Depression Be Treated Without Medication?

2 answers | Last updated: Sep 14, 2017
A fellow caregiver asked...

Can depression be treated without medication?

Expert Answers

Kenneth Robbins, M.D., is a senior medical editor of Caring.com. He is board certified in psychiatry and internal medicine, has a master's in public health from the University of Michigan, and is a clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. His current clinical practice focuses primarily on geriatrics. He has written and contributed to many articles and is frequently invited to speak on psychiatric topics, such as psychiatry and the law, depression, anxiety, dementia, and suicide risk and prevention.

Yes, with mild and moderate depression, studies show that talk therapy alone, if done properly, is probably equivalent to the successes of antidepressants, and maybe even better. However, with severe depression, because of the risks involved, there's better success with antidepressant medication, ideally in combination with talk therapy.

Although there was a lot of news hype over recent findings that talk therapy alone can be as effective as drugs (and sometimes more effective), what was less reported was the key fact that not all talk therapy is alike. It's not enough to talk to an empathic listener. You have to find someone with the right skill set.

Specifically, successful talk therapy requires working with someone who knows how to use one of the main types of psychotherapy beneficial to people with depression: cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT, psychotherapy that focuses on the role of thinking in what people feel or do) or interpersonal therapy (which focuses on interpersonal relationships).

Other research that shows that, done incorrectly, talk therapy alone can make a case of depression worse. In general, when someone is depressed, therapies that help someone manage the present are more effective than those that spend a lot of time replaying a painful past.

Community Answers

Mom of 3 answered...

After 11 long years fighting depression, I am grateful to be able to say that, yes, depression can be SUCCESSFULLY treated without medication!

Many studies have shown the effectiveness of using amino acid therapy to treat -- and even CURE -- depression. There are actually, surprisingly, quite a few books and web sites about amino acid and diet therapies, but the one I read (and highly recommend) is The Mood Cure by Julia Ross. I found it at my library. I feel better than I have during the full course of my depression, and I am more than 75% done tapering off of my ("non-addictive", ha) prescription medication -- without side effects. And even when my medication made a difference in how I felt, it didn't get me feeling like I do now: normal!

Take a look at The Mood Cure, or just google amino acid therapy for depression. Do this for yourself, or for anyone you love who has depression. You know how they say depression is a chemical imbalance? Well, it is -- and it's almost always caused by a deficiency in one or more amino acids that our brains must have to create the chemicals (like seratonin & dopamine) that create/support the way we feel.

Why do mainstream doctors not know this (or not care)?! Whatever the reason, it's infuriating.