Alternative Treatments for Dealing with Depression at Work

Depressed Woman at Work

Dealing with career disappointment is enough to give anyone a serious case of the blues. Now try adding the additional weight of dealing with clinically diagnosed depression.  You might think things can’t get any worse. Sadly, things can get even worse for the nearly 7% of American adults every year who experience a major depressive episode.  The primary means of treating clinical depression in America remains stuck in the repetitious cycle of antidepressant medication trial and error. The dysfunctional nature of relying upon this cycle of treatment becomes instantly apparent with just a few statistics:

  • The most commonly prescribed type antidepressants, selective serotonin-reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) can take at least as month and as long as three months to establish themselves as an effective treatment, while treatment with non-SSRIs generally require at least a month to start working;
  • Only 40% of those diagnosed with clinical depression respond favorably to the first medication prescribed;
  • Almost two-thirds of those who take a prescribed antidepressant report experiencing at least one side effect;
  • Minor side effects for nearly every antidepressant include diarrhea, nausea, increased perspiration and headaches;
  • More serious side effects of antidepressant capable of adversely impacting job performance and enjoyment include weight gain, nighttime insomnia, daytime drowsiness and agitation.

According to the Consumer Reports Guide to Using Antidepressants, 70% is the percentage of those responding favourably to treatment with an antidepressant by those medications considered the most effective medications in the market.  

With more than 50 different drugs available for treating depression, the way things can get worse is by wasting years of your life trying to chase down an effective anti-depressant. Fortunately, there are other alternatives to pharmaceuticals when it comes to relieving your clinically diagnosed depression. You may not be to relieve your career dissatisfaction, but even that situation could eventually be helped along by trying out one of these alternative treatments for depression.   

  • St. John’s Wort

St. John’s Wort is one of those herbal supplements that the makers of anti-depressant medication hold up to bitter scrutiny as an effective treatment. The taint placed upon St. John’s Wort may well be due to the fact that you can walk into any drugstore in America and buy it cheaply and without a prescription. Keep in mind that this is the exact same St. John’s Wort that requires a prescription in some European countries where it is often considered the first line of treatment upon diagnosis of depression. The list of side effects associated with St. John’s Wort in most cases is paltry compared with those of the typical antidepressant. It is those cases that are not typical that are at the root of why St. John’s Wort has actually been banned in some countries, however. The ban is associated with a number of studies indicating a high risk of potentially dangerous interactions with a host of other prescription drugs.

  • Vitamin and Mineral Supplements

Vitamin and mineral supplements commonly associated with lifting a depressed mood include vitamin B-12, niacin, folic acid and omega-3 fatty acids. A 2011 study published in the journal “Issues in Mental Health Nursing” links groups at high risk for developing a vitamin D deficiency with groups at high risk for developing depression. Since the most abundant source for vitamin D is sunlight, the results could point to a connection between indoor employment and depression as well. 

  • Light Box Therapy

A lack of sunlight also plays a role in a very specific form of clinical depression known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).  SAD presents the unique case in the world of depression where effective treatment is more advanced than actual understanding of the cause.  According to a joint study by the University of British Columbia and the University of Toronto, Light Box therapy proved to be just as successful in treating Seasonal Affective Disorder as the popular antidepressant drug, Prozac. Light Box therapy requires nothing more complicated than sitting in front of a box which emits a very bright light. Your doctor will specify a set amount of time for each session which is usually short enough that this alternative treatment for depression could actually be done on the premises of your workplace during a lunch break. 

  • Art Therapy

In the case of an alternative therapy to treat depression, art means any form of artistic expression rather than drawing or painting. The best art therapy is half distraction from the conscious anguish of depression and half absorption into the unconscious causes of depression. If it succeeds at nothing else, art therapy can potentially get you through some really bad days at work. The argument against art therapy as an actual treatment for depression can be made with just three words: Van Gogh’s suicide. Of course, Van Gogh’s suicide can also be used to make a pretty strong case in support of art therapy. Imagine how much earlier he might have killed himself if he’d been trapped so tightly in a job he hated that he never discovered a way to express himself through artistic expression.

  • Exercise

The physical act of exercising helps stimulate and enhance the body’s natural release of chemical endorphins and the neurotransmitter norepinephrine. Both these substances are believed to have a major impact on mood. Unfortunately, most depression people are in no mood to exercise. One way around this vicious Catch-22 is finding an alternative treatment that is at least effective enough to stimulate you to begin exercising. 

"Researchers checked in with 133 of the original patients six months after the first study ended. They found that the people who exercised regularly after completing the study, regardless of which treatment they were on originally, were less likely to relapse into depression." Special Health Report from Harvard Medical School "Understanding Depression"

 No alternative treatment for clinical depression can claim to be any more effective than anti-depressant medication. On the other hand, anecdotal evidence as well as a growing pile of scientific studies have seriously called into question whether anti-depressant medications are any more effective than a variety of alternative treatments. Career disappointments, job disasstisfaction and employment setbacks do not cause clinical depression, but the dread of facing such a huge part of your daily life has the power to make the situation infinitely worse.