Major Depressive Disorder is a condition that is as common as it is devastating. The condition is treatable and many good medications have been developed over the years. A frequent outcome of even “successful” depression treatment is an incomplete response while taking what seems like a laundry list of medications. Yeah, the patient is better than before, but not 100% better and they are now dealing with a number of medication side effects. Side effects often drive patients to
stop their medications, which in turn often results in a depressive “relapse”. This can then start a vicious cycle of on and off medications with recurrent depressive episodes. In most cases this can be avoided when a more complete and holistic approach to depression treatment is used.
Q: What does a “holistic approach” to treating depression look like?
In general terms, a “holistic approach” refers to treatment of the whole person, taking into account psychological and social factors, rather than just the basic symptoms of a disease. In Psychiatry, this is essential to yield the most complete response possible. The holistic approach may start with a Psychiatric evaluation and the prescription of a medication, but also entails committed involvement in individual psychotherapy, group therapy, exercise therapy, nutritional therapy,
and vitamin therapy, as well as “Eastern” modalities such as acupuncture, meditation, and yoga. This approach involves more intensive involvement
in the early stages of treatment, followed by a gradual reduction to a “maintenance” level of some of these elements by incorporating them permanently
into their lifestyle.
Q: How does a “holistic approach” reduce the need for medications?
Antidepressants work a whole lot better if you help them out. The use of psychotherapy to address underlying issues that trigger depressive thoughts and self-destructive behaviors is essential. This usually makes the biggest difference, after medications. Exercise and nutrition are the most obvious yet most overlooked elements that can make a major difference in treatment responses. Patients most often demonstrate a better response faster, and at a lower dose of medication when they are engaged in physical training with a proper meal plan. Acupuncture, meditation, and yoga all add deep relaxation, as well as other intangible benefits, that facilitate and help maintain a more complete antidepressant response. When all these holistic modalities are combined together, many europhysiological and psychological barriers are diminished, thus enabling faster and more complete antidepressant responses with less medications and
often at lower doses.
Q: What else can help reduce the number of medications that I take?
The fundamental need for a proper evaluation and accurate diagnosis cannot be overstated. If you are being treated for the wrong diagnosis, you will most likely end up on a whole lot of the wrong medications. This is because the medications are not working like they should and more and more pills are often added trying
to make it work (the classic forcing a square peg into a round hole effect). Less medication is needed when the treatment is specific for the correct diagnosis. Proper compliance, as in taking your medications consistently and as prescribed, helps get the most out of what you are taking and can reduce the need for dosage increases. Advanced non-medicinal treatments, such as “deep Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation” (dTMS), are very powerful and can be used on their own or in combination with medications to achieve full remission. Almost regardless of which specific elements you incorporate, a holistic approach to the treatment of Major Depression can yield a better clinical response while using less medications.
Raul J Rodriguez M.D. is the founder,
CEO and Medical Director of the Delray
Center For Healing and the Delray Center
for Brain Science, outpatient Mental
Health Treatment Centers, which follow
a holistic approach and oer comprehensive
Major Depression treatment
programs that include advanced treatments
such as therapeutic Ketamine infusions,
Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation
(TMS), DBT psychotherapy and skills
training, advanced psychopharmacology,
exercise therapy, nutritional therapy,
acupuncture, meditation, and yoga.