Numerous studies have shown that mood disorders such as major depressive disorder [MDD] and anxiety disorders including panic disorder [PD], obsessive-compulsive disorder [OCD] and phobias are among the most prevalent mental conditions. According to the U.S. National Comorbidity Survey Replication, 9.5 percent or 20.9 million people have suffered from mood disorders while anxiety disorders have plagued 18.1 percent of adults or 40 million people. Treatment is vital because these conditions can deter your daily functioning more than many serious chronic physical illnesses.
Consider Your Treatment Options
Your doctor may prescribe an antidepressant like Wellbutrin XL that works in your brain to improve your mood or anxiety disorder. Today, over 50 percent of patients are supplementing traditional pharmacological treatment with complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) techniques. Women are more likely than men to use CAM options. Studies show that add-on therapies like natural herbal products and mind-body practices help regulate mood.
Explore Natural Products
St. John’s Wort. As one of the best-studied botanicals of all time, St. John’s Wort (SJW) is Mother Nature’s remedy for mild to moderate depression. Studies show that St. John’s Wort inhibits monoamine reuptake and downregulates monoamine receptors in the brain. A meta-analysis of 23 randomized trials included 1757 outpatients with mainly mild or moderately severe depressive symptoms. Researchers found that SJW extracts were significantly superior to placebo and as effective as standard antidepressants.
S-adenosylmethionine (SAMe). This amino acid is a major donor of methyl groups that serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine need for synthesis. A recent review of 11 studies concluded that SAMe produced a significant mood improvement, compared to placebos. One study showed that SAMe enhanced the effectiveness of serotonin reuptake inhibitors in non-responding patients.Double-blind studies have found SAMe to be as effective as standard antidepressants.
Omega-3 fatty acids. These essential fatty acids (EFAs) help you maintain brain structure and function by stabilizing neuronal membranes and facilitating monoamine neurotransmission. Because the human body can’t synthesize essential fatty acids, you must ingest them as food or dietary supplements. Studies have associated reduced EFA levels with depression. Many studies have shown that fish oil supplements may enhance or balance mood. One study found supplements reduced symptom ratings greater than a placebo. Meta-analyses of omega-3 fatty acids demonstrate depression improvements in placebo-controlled trials.
Discover Mind-Body Practices
Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) and mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT). Different than relaxation or mood-management techniques, mindfulness skills cultivate greater self-awareness. They expand your perspective, understanding and acceptance of yourself. By observing your thoughts and feelings as events, similar to objects of sensory awareness, you develop the ability to respond reflectively rather than habitually or automatically.
MBSR techniques help you become more aware of your experience in the present. You tune in to moment-to-moment mind and body changes. Research shows that mindfulness-based stress reduction has therapeutic benefits for mood disorders. A systematic review and meta-analysis found that patients with mood and anxiety disorders maintained the robust effects of MBSR at follow-up. In an anxiety study, this therapy reduced participants’ blood pressure, depression, anxiety and general psychological distress. A review concluded that MBSR may help people cope with clinical depression, stress and anxiety.
Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy combines cognitive therapy with meditative practices and attitudes about cultivating mindfulness. Its goal is to prevent depression relapse by changing the way you identify and respond to symptomatic thoughts, feelings and bodily sensations. A study found that patients who had MBCT training along with usual treatment had significantly fewer episodes of relapse/recurrence than those in the control group.
Acupuncture. This traditional Chinese treatment supports the theory that your life force’s energy, or Qi, runs throughout your body in a network of channels. Disorders alter your Qi’s flow. Acupuncturists access corresponding meridians at specific points on your skin with needles to restore the balance of your Qi’s flow and equilibrium. A recent meta-analysis of eight clinical trials comparing 477 subjects showed that acupuncture reduced the severity of depression significantly. Another analysis of 12 controlled acupuncture in anxiety trials demonstrated positive findings.
Yoga. Evidence that yoga improves depression and anxiety is mounting. Researchers believe this physical, mental and spiritual discipline that transforms your body and mind may decrease depression by enhancing brain waves and reducing cortisol levels. A review of five clinical trials showed different forms of yoga interventions brought relief to patients with a range of disease severities.
One study found that deep yoga relaxation reduced depression among university students. A pilot study measured the benefits of Vinyasa yoga that includes flowing from one posture to another as an adjunctive to antidepressant treatment. Over a two-month period, participants’ depression symptoms decreased significant while mindfulness and behavior activation increased considerably.
A study of women with self-reported anxiety found that two weekly 90-minute yoga sessions reduced stress, anxiety, depression and fatigue while also increasing well-being and vigor. Researchers noted consistently positive results while reviewing five trials of yoga participants with clinically diagnosed anxiety disorders. One trial showed substantial improvement in OCD subjects. Another trial reports significant improvements in patients with depression and anxiety.
Customize Your Treatment Plan
Making a few mood-enhancing changes like adding one or more natural remedies and mind-body practices can make your antidepressant work even better. Before adding supplements, consult your doctor to avoid any that might interact with your prescription medication regimen. Then test these complementary and alternative medicine techniques until you find the best choices for your condition.