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Is depression a disease? I have always been taught that it is, but more and more I am questioning whether the model and approach I have been using with clients is the most helpful one for healing. If it isn't than looking for natural cures for depression make sense.
Dr James Gordon, a Harvard educated psychiatrist, is among those who argue that psychiatrists and pharmaceutical companies get a huge pay off for pushing this agenda when it is a false one. He believes that the evidence has been skewed to show antidepressants are more beneficial than they are and that they are overprescribed. In fact, he believes it is a very small amount of people that are helped by them. I do think our current medical model does not adequately address the connection between the mind and the body and discourages real and thorough healing. Certainly, modern medicine does not advocate for natural cures for depression.
Dr Gordon points out that therapists who may devote time to helping clients with more natural methods don’t get reinforced in the same way monetarily as psychiatrists who prescribe meds, and can't produce quick results. Antidepressants are "quick fix" and line the pockets of pharmaceutical companies and psychiatrists who are paid well to prescribe them.
Gordon argues that if you are depressed it is important to look at your life and what is going on when you are depressed so you can see what may be contributing to it. Typically when using the medical model we ignore the interaction of mind and all of the systems of the body, instead aiming to suppress the pain instead of treating the source of it.
Traditional medicine ( not current ) views the symptoms of depression as pointing to something that needs to be addressed. This is a hopeful model that can be empowering and lead to positive and healthy changes.
Gordon developed a 7 step model as one of the natural cures for depression which includes a comprehensive approach to addressing your mind and body and how they are interacting to produce depression.
He suggests when a client first realizes they are depressed and in need of or seeking assistance we should immediately look at what is happening on a physical level. Gordon suggests looking to alternative integrative physicians for vitamin deficiencies, inflammatory processes and/ or other disease processes that may be contributing to or triggering the depressive episode as part of the initial intake.
He further recommends finding a guide (therapist or other healer ) to help you through your depression. This should be someone who sees depression as a journey and not a pathological process. Dr Gordon explains this process as working with someone who does not judge you, see you as someone to fix, or someone who is pathological.
We as therapists are certainly taught to pathologize depression, because the process of diagnosing is determined by the DSM V which is based on the disease model. It is a fix it approach, and it does foster the sense in our clients that they are damaged or flawed, something they already struggle with. I agree that destigmatizing depression in this way would be good.
He sees the process of healing from depression as a series of stages where you work to rejoin life, learn about the difficulties that are holding you back, incorporate a sense of belief in something more powerful than yourself ( spirituality) and return to yourself and a different a stronger form. Most good therapists do follow a similar formula for helping clients.
His stages of treatment include all natural cures for depression unless a client is in deep despair and has tried other alternatives. My experience with antidepressants is different in that many of my depressed clients seem to have improvement when on them, especially when combined with therapy, however, in combination with alternative methods such as medication, acupuncture, and good use of integrative medicine, I do think many less people could be taking them.
For more information about Dr James Gordon and his natural cure for depression see his his book "Unstuck: Your guide to the seven stage journey out of depression".
Learn more about James Gordon by watching him here
Supplements are also considered a more natural approach to depression, although they are really rarely a substitute. Many have side effects, interact with other substances you might take, vary in quality, or are just not proven to be effective. Below is a brief summary of supplements used as natural cures for depression.
Omega 3 is often used and recommended as a supplement but research shows mixed results. It seems that the greatest impact on depression is shown when Omega 3 is taken along with an antidepressant and it appears to work primarily by impacting inflammation (Giles et al. 2013).
Intramuscular or intravenous administration of SAMe is supported by research for depression, but it isn't shown to be effective over long periods of time. It appears to increases dopamine, serotonin and neuroepinephrine. Additionally it has a negative effect on bipolar disorder (risk of mania) , and supplements vary widely in their strength and therefore, reliability(Haefner, J. 2017).
Folate /Folic acid
There is some evidence that adding folic acid to an antidepressive drugs or bipolar drugs can increase their efficacy for both major depressive disorder and bipolar disorder(Haefner, J. 2017).
Some studies suggest supplementation of Vitamin D especially fight before the winter months in people who have Seasonal Affective Disorder can help with symptoms of depression (Haefner, J. 2017).
ST Johns Wort
In Europe, pharmaceutical companies prepare a standard formula of the plant and it is commonly sold as an antidepressant. Studies show it is an effective antidepressant, and has side effects that go along with it. It also can decrease the impact of several medications and causing serotonin syndrome if taken in combination with antidepressants (Haeffner, J. 2017).
Yoga, Mindfulness Meditation and Tai Chi and Qigong
Some research suggests improvement in symptoms of depression for each of these alternative interventions (Haefner, J. 2017).
.Giles, G.E., Mahoney, C.R., & Kanarek, R.B. (2013). Omega-3 fatty acids infl uence mood in healthy and depressed individuals. Nutrition Reviews, 71, 727-741. doi:10.1111/ nure.12066
Gustafson, C. (2016, Summer). James S. gordon, MD: A transformative approach to depression. Advances in Mind - Body Medicine, 30, 26-32. Retrieved from http://nclive.org/cgi-bin/nclsm?url=http://search.proquest.com/docview/1816873432?accountid=13217
Haefner, J. (2017). Complementary and integrative health practices for depression.Journal of Psychosocial Nursing & Mental Health Services, 55(12), 22-33. http://dx.doi.org/10.3928/02793695-20170905-02
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