Combining Treatments for Depression & Anxiety

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In our last blog, we talked about the benefits of combining medications and therapy for mental health conditions when appropriate, which can lead to better treatment outcomes. We talked about situations where talk therapy and psychiatric medications can work together to produce stronger treatment effects than each approach does alone.

We also promised to share more treatment ideas for mental health conditions. Talk therapy and medications are just 2 treatments among many. These treatments have been around for a long time and work well, but in our experience, many people are unaware of some of the less standard options, and may be missing out on opportunities for some magical combinations!

This week, we wanted to talk about treatments for depression and anxiety. These conditions can be caused by genetics/chemical imbalances, life circumstances, and/or negative thinking patterns that may develop into debilitating episodes of low mood, low energy, and low motivation. With hopelessness as a characteristic, depression can be difficult to rise out of due to the low motivation it creates.

Some treatment options available for anxiety and depression include:

Talk therapy - Therapies can include Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), Cognitive Therapy, Behavioral Therapy and more. Therapy can help challenge and rework negative thought patterns, problematic behavior patterns, and activate positive behaviors and habits. Therapy supports positive changes as well as acceptance of unchangeable factors.

Mindfulness meditation- Mindfulness refers to focusing fully on the present moment, without judgment, and grounding ourselves. We are often so busy, doing and thinking about so many things at once, and in the case of depression, ruminating on the past and on negative thoughts and events. Focusing on the present moment allows us to let go of thoughts about the past and focus on our bodies, our breath, nature, or a pleasant activity (e.g. art, music), essentially focusing on and appreciating being exactly where we are.

Groups- Group therapies and support groups are excellent not only because they can teach coping skills, but because social support is a huge component in improving mental health. Depression can feel very isolating, and social interactions can improve mood rather quickly! Our brain craves social support even when we self-isolate, and being around people helps normalize and validate our experiences. We are naturally inclined towards social interactions since it’s ingrained in us for survival (power in numbers!). Having shared experiences and a variety of perspectives is a formula for great treatment outcomes.

Nutrition- Nutrition plays a big role in mental health. Gut health in particular has been implicated in mood, among other things, due to the large number of neurons present in and around our gut. Gut health can be explored, with dietary changes, supplements, and probiotics showing success in improving mental health. Vitamin deficiencies can also exacerbate mood problems, so exploring vitamin levels is recommended. Food sensitivities can affect mood as well (e.g. food dye, gluten) for some individuals. Integrative doctors and nutritional practitioners can help explore these approaches.

Medications - Antidepressant medications are typically used for treatment, due to their effect on several chemicals in the brain. Most of the typical antidepressant medications affect serotonin levels, norepinephrine levels, or a combination of both. Some medications also affect dopamine levels, adding effect by helping the reward centers of the brain. Mood stabilizing medications (e.g. Lithium) originally intended for Bipolar Disorder have also shown some success for depression, and can be considered. Medications aren’t for everyone, and have some side effects to consider, but show great success for many suffering from depression. They’re particularly important to consider when suicidal ideation is present. They can also raise a person’s mood baseline enough to help them get more effect from therapy.

Getting the right kind of help is important. At Still Waters we do offer medication and talk therapy and some of out therapists specifically offer mindfulness-based treatment as well. And if we can’t help we will provide you with information about other practitioners in the area.

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