Alternatives to antidepressants
If you don’t want to take antidepressants, there are lots of alternative treatments you can try. In fact, if you are diagnosed with mild depression, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) guidelines for treating depression recommend that doctors offer you other treatments ahead of medication.
If you are taking antidepressants, you may also want to use other options for treatment and support in addition to your medication.
This page has information on some of the common alternatives to antidepressants. You may find these helpful to use instead of your medication, or alongside it:
- Talking therapies
- Arts and creative therapies
- Complementary and alternative therapies
- Peer support
- Look after your physical health
The NICE guidelines for treating depression recommend that doctors offer you a type of talking therapy or counselling. This will often be cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). Talking therapies may be offered instead of antidepressants, or in addition to them.
See our pages on talking therapy and counselling for information about the other kinds of therapy that are available.
Mindfulness is a way of giving your full attention to the present moment. Some studies show that practising mindfulness can help to manage depression.
Some structured mindfulness-based therapies have also been developed to treat mental health problems more formally. For example, NICE recommends mindfulness-based cognitive therapy for managing depression.
Arts and creative therapies
Arts and creative therapies help you express your feelings through things like painting, clay work, music or drama therapy. They can help you deal with your symptoms, especially if you find it difficult to talk about how you’re feeling.
Ecotherapy is a type of therapeutic treatment which involves doing outdoor activities in nature. This may include working on a conservation project or gardening. Or you may walk or cycle through areas of nature.
Complementary and alternative therapies
Some people find complementary and alternative therapies helpful in managing their symptoms. For example, this may be aromatherapy, reflexology or acupuncture. Complementary therapies may also help manage some of the side effects of medication, if you decide to continue with it.
Some herbal remedies can interact with antidepressants and other types of medication. So if you are thinking about taking a herbal remedy alongside any medication, speak to your doctor or pharmacist about whether this is safe.
St John’s wort
St John’s wort is a herbal medicine that is sometimes used to treat symptoms of depression and anxiety. It is available to buy without needing a prescription.
There is some uncertainty about the effects of St John’s Wort, as well as the correct dose to take and how it interacts with other medicines. It is best to seek advice from your doctor before taking it, especially if you are already taking any kind of medication.
Peer support allows you to make connections with people who have had similar or shared experiences to yours. If you’d like to try peer support, you could:
- try an online peer support community, such as New Life Psychiatric Rehabilitation Association’s Peer Services (https://www.nlpra.org.hk/en/our_services/peer%20services) or Baptist Oi Kwan Social Service’s Peer Support Scheme (https://www.bokss.org.hk/integrated-mental-health-services/service?id=74&_lang=en)
“[What helps me is] running, healthy diet and Pilates. I also have friends and a support group that I trust.”
Look after your physical health
- Think about what you eat and drink. Eating a balanced and nutritious diet may help to manage some of your symptoms. Drinking plenty of water can also help your mental wellbeing. See our pages on food and mood for more information. If you have a difficult relationship with food and eating, our pages on eating problems may help.
- Try to be more active. Many people find regular physical activity helps to lift their mood, boost their energy levels and keep them grounded in reality. See our pages on physical activity and your mental health for more information.
- Try to get enough sleep. Getting enough sleep can sometimes feel difficult. But having a good amount of quality sleep is very helpful for your mental health. See our pages on sleep problems for more information.