How to Treat Depression Without Medication

Have you been struggling with depression, but don’t want to start taking medication due to potential side effects? Maybe you or someone you know is looking for alternative treatments for depression because you haven’t experienced improvement with medication-based treatment?

If you’re interested in exploring alternative depression treatments without medication, gaining a better understanding of different treatment options and strategies that effectively reduce symptoms can help you decide which approach may be best for you.

Read on to learn more about how to treat depression without meds. 

*Disclaimer: If you’re struggling with depression, it is recommended that you speak with a healthcare professional who can perform an assessment to determine whether a medication-free approach is appropriate for you.


One of the first lines of treatment for depression is psychotherapy, which is also known as talk therapy [1]. There are four main categories:

  • Cognitive therapy – Focuses on helping people identify negative thoughts that may be contributing to or exacerbating symptoms of depression and shift to more positive thought-processing [2].
  • Behavioral therapy – A goal-focused approach involving behavioral activation, in which individuals are tasked with engaging in pleasurable activities (e.g., volunteering) that promote joy and fulfillment instead of social avoidance [3].
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy – A combined approach that targets negative thinking and harmful behaviors that worsen depressive symptoms. The sessions encourage more positive responses through coping strategies (e.g., relaxation activities, journaling, volunteering). Research shows that CBT is effective at supporting sustained improvement and lower rates of relapse [4].
  • Psychodynamic/psychoanalytic therapy – A unique approach that aims at revealing unresolved issues (e.g., childhood trauma, life-changing events) in the unconscious mind that may be contributing to depressive feelings. Individuals who receive psychodynamic therapy typically continue to improve after the end of the therapeutic sessions [5].

Psychotherapy is often recommended along with pharmacological interventions (e.g., antidepressants) for people with depression.

Mindfulness Practice

Mindfulness practices that include mindfulness-based CBT and mindfulness-based stress reduction have rapidly increased during the past decade [6] [7] [8]. Practicing mindfulness involves helping individuals recognize their immediate responses to aversive experiences and offering constructive strategies that make them less reactive to unpleasant situations [8].

Research shows that mindfulness promotes acceptance and awareness while improving distress tolerance [6] [7] [8]. This process involves building self-regulation skills that focus on paying attention to potential depression triggers and heightening openness, acceptance, and curiosity—which are described as important cognitive factors that support stress tolerance [6][7].

Mindfulness helps individuals with depression address their triggers head-on through healthy practices instead of avoiding them. Initially, people may find it hard to shift their attention to the present moment during a depressive episode, but those who are able to achieve mindful attention generally demonstrate higher psychological well-being [6]. Beneficial mindfulness-based interventions include [6] [7]:

  • Day-long mindfulness retreats  
  • Mindfulness-based group sessions  
  • Daily audio-guided home practice 
  • Mindfulness meditation (e.g., yoga, tai chi)
  • Stress adaptation through the use of daily mindful practices
  • Homework involving mindful practices (e.g., deep breathing, mantras, internal body scans) 

Mindfulness interventions are often effective for milder cases of depression or in combination with other treatments.

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Take Care of Your Physical Health

Although certain life events or physical factors (e.g., cognitive issues) may contribute to depression, additional factors such as nutrition, sleep, and exercise also influence depressive symptoms.


Nutritional imbalances or deficiencies are often linked to mental health problems. For instance, low levels of omega fatty acids, specific minerals (e.g., selenium, iron, zinc), and vitamins B, D, and K are associated with various health issues including depression and anxiety [9] [10] [11].

Fortunately, people suffering from depression who boost their intake of essential micronutrients typically begin to experience fewer depressive episodes [10] [11]. Vitamins B and D in particular, help heighten mood in people who frequently experience anxiety, depression, mental exhaustion, and social withdrawal [9] [10] [11].

Exercise and Sleep

Exercise and sleep have been labeled as two of the most influential factors contributing to the onset and progression of depression [12]. This is because physical activity helps the body acclimate to its environment and exercise also supports balanced sleep control. Similarly, sleep promotes physical recovery from a strenuous day and even vigorous exercise—meaning exercise and sleep work in conjunction to improve overall well-being [12].

Enhanced well-being also supports better mental health and research shows that even minimal amounts of exercise have protective effects against depression [12]. Furthermore, individuals who are physically active typically report better sleep quality and fewer depressive episodes than people who are inactive [12].

These findings indicate that anyone who is suffering from depression should also assess their nutrition status, physical activity level, and sleep patterns.

Consider TMS Therapy 

Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) is a non-invasive approach to treating depression without medication that uses magnetic pulses to stimulate nerve cells in specific regions of the brain [13]. TMS therapy is frequently recommended for people with major depression who want to avoid medication or cannot take certain prescription drugs due to unbearable side effects or pregnancy. It is also an effective approach for people with treatment-resistant depression who fail to respond to different types of antidepressants [14].

In 2008, the FDA approved the use of TMS to treat depression. The treatment protocol typically involves daily TMS sessions for about six weeks and this alternative depression treatment offers the following advantages: [15] [16].

  • Does not require anesthesia
  • Well-tolerated procedure with minimal side effects
  • Does not cause any memory problems or physical impairments
  • Outpatient procedure that allows individuals to immediately resume regular activities
  • Rarely causes seizures

Furthermore, clinical evidence demonstrates that TMS helps enhance cognitive functions including focus and memory [15] [16]. Research also shows that TMS has an exceptional response rate of over 80% and remission rates of 62%, which reflects sustained improvement following the completion of TMS therapy [14].

TMS is particularly effective for people with treatment-resistant depression who respond poorly to antidepressants or experience excruciating side effects [14]. Due to these benefits, people who are interested in treating depression without antidepressants should consider TMS therapy.

If you’re tired of struggling with depression and want to explore alternative methods, TMS may be the treatment option you’ve been looking for.

Need More Information on TMS Therapy?

If you’d like to learn more about TMS therapy or schedule an appointment to discuss whether TMS is right for you, contact Dr. TMS Therapy Griffith Psychiatry today.

We use TMS technology that:

  • Heightens mood regulation
  • Minimizes depressive episodes
  • Reactivates impaired nerve cells
  • Rejuvenates brain cells and structures

If you are also interested in learning more about psychotherapy or a combined TMS approach, feel free to reach out to our office today! Our dedicated team will help you explore the best options for your treatment journey.

We are ready to help you.

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Walter G. Griffith Jr., MD, PA

Dr. Griffith earned his Undergraduate Degree from Notre Dame University and his Medical Degree from Ohio State University’s College of Medicine. He then completed his Residency in Psychiatry at Ohio’s prestigious Cleveland Clinic, and ultimately became the Chief Resident at the Cleveland Clinic in his final year of residency. After completing his residency, Dr. Griffith moved with his family to sunny Florida in 1992, where he worked at several hospitals in the early days of his career, but, ultimately, he decided to start his own outpatient Psychiatric Private Practice in Florida, where he has been working and growing the practice over the last three decades. Dr. Griffith is the Medical Director for the medical practice and oversees all of the medical clinicians who work in the practice in order to help manage the growing patient caseload at both of the medical office locations.

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