The Doc Is In: How To Treat Mental Health Without Prescriptions
These days, conventional treatment of mental health generally consists of psychotherapy, an antidepressant and an occasional splash of a benzodiazapine.
But does one size fit all when it comes to something as enigmatic as mental health?
Can we get away with treating all depressed patients with a Zoloft, Xanax, and a weekly therapy session.
Diagnoses such as anxiety and depression have innumerable etiologies,. Thus, treatments should be tailored individually to each patient.
Yes, the complexities of dealing with mental health are understood amongst those in the medical community, but mental health and the treatment of mental health (primarily anxiety and depression) are neglected and misunderstood time and time again.
To truly understand what a patient is dealing with, a practitioner should conduct an in-depth review of a patient’s clinical history and lab work which includes analysis of hormones (ex: full thyroid panel, testosterone levels), lifestyle history which includes diet and supplement history, social history which includes spirituality, and family history which includes genetics. I should mention that I am not against prescription medications to stabilize mood or affect: and if deemed necessary by you and your integrative health practitioner then they are something that should be considered in the treatment of anxiety/depression.
With diagnoses such as anxiety or depression, professionals and patients alike should enter the care of their health with an open mind and understanding of the risks and benefits of each therapeutic modality.
A good approach to assessing whether 'alternative treatments' can work for you is to try out a few and give your body and mind time to adjust to these treatments (i.e. go to yoga class 3x/week for one month). With any treatment aimed at alleviating a chronic ailment it generally takes some easing into and a commitment for a desired outcome. A lot of these treatments can seem silly at first but after settling yourself into the therapy you begin developing a closer relationship between your mind and body.
And although the list below is not the full list of therapies for depression/anxiety, it is a comprehensively curated approach of the treatment modalities that I favor the most for the management of anxiety/depression without pharmaceuticals:
Think of it as a reset to your mind. After a long day of thinking and doing you are able to give your brain the time that it needs to heal and restore itself: its the hardest and easiest thing you can do. I try to fit my meditation in with my yoga practice but I also try to incorporate breathing exercises into my day throughout the day. Through mediation you are able to create actual plastic change in your brain which is a concept more formally known as 'neuroplasticity'
Movement allows you to create a sense of proprioception to that around you and bring a greater understanding of how the mind controls and can be controlled. The key is to move in any which way: I find refuge in my (mainly) daily workouts. Mixing it up is essential so that your body is able to get a nice balance of exercises
When I first started experimenting with lavender, I accidentally dropped some of the essential oil in my ex-boyfriends eye: don't do that (and maybe that's why he's now an ex). Other than that I don't think anyone has had any bad experiences with essential oils- numerous studies have shown their effectiveness as an adjunctive treatment for anxiety/depression. To really understand which oils help you the most I suggest reading up on them, finding a dealer you enjoy and buying a small sample pack and testing them out either by rubbing them on your temples or pulse points throughout an anxiety-ridden day, diffusing them into your work environment or mixing them with unscented castille oil and using it as a body wash.
Whether you’re enjoying a soundbath or listening to Mozart while you work - music through its vibrations can change your mood by also inducing plastic changes in the brain. Obviously music can evoke both positive and negative emotions: so be sure find something that can soothe your soul and mind.
An unbalanced diet results in an unbalanced brain: If I were to name the one thing that significantly can change my mood, I’d name the food I’ve eaten in the past week. Diets richer in omega-3's and tryptophan have been scientifically shown to improve mood **
Vitamins and Supplements
If you saw my daily supplement list you would wonder how I can keep up! And the only reason I do is because they work. I have seen improvements in my energy, mood and a decrease in anxiety. Obviously its important to know what your body needs before taking supplements and understanding that not all supplements are created equal and that is why it's a good idea to have an integrative practitioner to help guide you through the process of starting and taking supplements.
Time with Friends and family
Its hard to spend quality time with those you love when our schedules can overwhelm us - at least this rings true for me. My good friend Giles recently said to me once "life is about friendships" - well the truth is life is anything you want it to be but when you make it about friendships it's then when it becomes enjoyable. Be friends with anyone you can and you'll have a more compassionate approach to life and living. #yestonewfriends
I first experienced the calming effects of this plant as a tea during my trip to Fiji earlier this year. A lot of Fijians enjoy this plant as a tea on a regular basis - boiled with hot water - it is drank late into the night amongst friends. I try to drink it once monthly after a long day and it immensely relaxes me to the point where I first feel pleased and then fall asleep. It isn't harmful is small doses and doesn't give you a hang over feeling like medications for anxiety and sleep.
Dr. Sarbaziha is board certified in Internal Medicine. She completed her post graduate training program at the University of Southern California and completed her fellowship training in Integrative Medicine through the University of Arizona.