6 alternative therapies for mental health issues

Complementary therapies such as yoga, dietary supplements, and pet therapy can help individuals cope with the symptoms of certain mental health disorders and improve their quality of life.

Traditionally, doctors treat conditions such as depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) with a combination of medication and psychotherapy. Mental health problems are common, with 21% of adults in the United States with mental illness in 2020. Alternative treatments beyond standard approaches may help more of these people manage their symptoms.

People living with mental health issues may find the following alternative therapies helpful. However, a person should consult their doctor first to ensure that these approaches are appropriate.

This article examines various alternative therapies for mental health issues, along with the benefits and risks.

Yoga is a physical, mental and spiritual practice that began in ancient India and consists of a series of physical movements and poses. Because yoga focuses the mind, doctors can recommend for people with depression, schizophrenia, PTSD and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Yoga is generally safe, with few risks outraged fatigue and shortness of breath, although this may depend on an individual’s fitness level. Possible benefits of yoga include:

  • increased flexibility
  • better balance
  • less stress
  • better quality of life
  • better maintenance of body weight
  • improved immunity

High-quality studies exploring the value of yoga as a therapy for mental health issues are lacking. Some studies offer moderate evidence of the beneficial effects of yoga over regular care.

However, the benefits of yoga seem limited compared to those of breathing techniques, progressive muscle relaxation, and aerobic exercise. That said, doctors may consider it a valid complementary treatment for people with depressive disorders.

Learn more about the health benefits of yoga here.

Fish oil is a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids which may relieve mental health symptoms and improves heart health.

Omega-3s can help people with a variety of mental health issues, including:

Although the evidence supporting this use of omega-3s is thin, the risk is minimal. Some studies have found promising evidence of omega-3 supplementation for treating depression and stabilizing mood, while others have found no conclusive evidence of its value.

However, doctors may consider using omega-3s to supplement antidepressants and other mental health medications.

Learn more about the health benefits of omega-3s here.

CES uses a small electrical device to stimulate the brain with a current below 4 milliamps, which a person cannot feel.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recognizes the CES as a Class III device that people can use to treat depression, anxiety, and sleep disorders. However, experts are uncertain how CES works on the body. One theory is that electric current increases serotonin, dopamine, endorphins, and other neurotransmitters, which help stabilize emotions.

People need a prescription for a CES device, but they can use it at home without a doctor’s supervision alongside their other treatments.

Side effects are rare and generally mild, although pregnant women may need to avoid using the device. Additionally, people with bipolar disorder should use CES with caution, as it may worsen their condition.

Experts see CES as promising but unproven. However, since the device has no drug interactions and minimal side effects, CES is a reasonable option if an individual’s symptoms do not respond to other treatments.

Kava, also known as kava kava or Piper methysticum, is a plant native to the Western Pacific Islands, where people have used it in traditional medicine for centuries. It is popular in the United States, with about 1% of the adult population uses kava to reduce stress, anxiety and inflammation.

This plant extract may help people with mild to moderate anxiety disorders, and using kava for short-term anxiety might be effective. Some research indicates that kava is superior to a placebo and recommended for treating anxiety. It may be a suitable alternative to antidepressants in people with mild to moderate anxiety.

Additionally, kava can help relieve memory, sleep and addiction disorders. Detox programs in New Zealand have used kava with a 90% success rate.

However, there are reports of liver toxicity and side effects such as:

Therefore, people with liver disease or those taking medications that are metabolized by the liver should seek the advice of their doctor before starting kava therapy.

Learn more about kava here.

Professionals can use dogs, horses and other animals to help people with mental health issues. Some to research suggests that animal-assisted therapy can reduce emotional and psychiatric symptoms, such as anxiety and depression.

Examples of animal therapy include equine-assisted psychotherapy (EAP). This horse-based therapy aims to improve people’s emotions and behaviors by teaching them to care for and ride horses. As prey, horses are very alert and sensitive to people’s emotions.

The therapy sessions exploit the natural sensitivities of horses. Participants should maintain self-awareness and use the horse’s behavior for feedback as they focus on building a connection based on mutual understanding.

Although rigorous scientific evidence is scarce, some small studies Pin up that equine therapy can relieve anxiety, depression and impulsivity.

Allergies, infections and accidents related to animals are among the risks of pet therapy. However, simple hygiene protocols minimize the likelihood, and evidence suggests the benefits outweigh the risks.

Learn more about pet therapy here.

More commonly known as SAMe, this natural chemical resides in every cell of the body and is essential for over 200 metabolic pathways.

SAMe is a prescription drug for depression in some European countries, and in the United States people can buy it without a prescription. People can use SAMe alone or with other antidepressant medications.

It appears to be beneficial as a treatment for depression, works quickly, and does not cause weight gain, sexual dysfunction, or sedation like some other prescription antidepressants. Additionally, the elderly and those taking medications that compromise liver function tolerate SAMe better than other antidepressants. Therefore, some experts believe that it should be the alternative medicine of choice.

However, like other activating antidepressants, SAMe can make anxiety and panic worse. Therefore, if individuals show signs of mania or bipolar disorder, SAMe may not be suitable or may require the concurrent use of mood-stabilizing medications.

Learn more about natural antidepressants here.

There are also several creative therapies that people with mental disorders can benefit from. Discover them here.

Complementary and alternative therapies for mental health issues include yoga, electrical stimulation, and dietary supplements, such as omega-3s and kava. These approaches can increase feelings of well-being, reduce anxiety, alleviate symptoms of depression, and promote relaxation.

Doctors may recommend these therapies to people who do not experience symptom relief using traditional medications or psychotherapy. They may suggest people try them alongside or as a substitute for their regular medications.

Although there is some evidence supporting the benefits of these therapies for mental health conditions, such as anxiety and depression, the research is limited and often of poor quality. As a result, many aspects remain unclear and further large-scale studies would help determine the true benefit of these alternative therapies.

Before trying alternative therapies for mental health issues, a person should first discuss them with their doctor to see if they are suitable options.

About Bernice D. Brewer

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