Complementary therapies such as yoga, dietary supplements, and pet therapy can help people cope with the symptoms of certain mood 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 issues are common, but alternative treatments beyond standard approaches can help more of these people manage their symptoms. People living with mental health issues may find the following alternative therapies helpful.
This article examines the various alternative therapies for mental health and wellness issues.
Yoga is a physical, mental and spiritual practice that originated in ancient India and consists of a series of physical movements and poses. Because yoga focuses the mind, doctors may recommend it for people living with depression, schizophrenia, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
Yoga is generally safe, with little risk other than fatigue and shortness of breath, although this may depend on the fitness level of the person. The possible benefits of yoga are:
– greater flexibility
– better balance
– stress reduction
– better quality of life
– better maintenance of body weight
– improvement of immunity
There are no high quality studies on the value of yoga as a therapy for mental health issues. Some studies offer moderate evidence for the beneficial effects of yoga over usual 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.
2 Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids
Fish oil is a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids that can ease mental health symptoms and improve heart health. Omega-3s can help people with a range of mental health issues, including:
– the Depression
– bipolar disorder
– cognitive disorders
– seasonal affective disorder$
Although the evidence supporting this use of omega-3s is thin, the risk is minimal. Some studies have found promising evidence for the benefit of omega-3 supplementation for treating depression and stabilizing mood, while others have found no conclusive evidence for its benefit. However, doctors may consider using omega-3s in addition to antidepressants.
3 Pet therapy
More and more, wellness centers are using dogs, horses and other animals to help people with mental health issues. Some research suggests that animal-assisted therapy can reduce emotional and psychiatric symptoms, such as anxiety and depression. Examples of animal therapy include horse-assisted psychotherapy. This horse-based therapy aims to improve people’s emotions and behaviors by teaching them how to care for and ride horses. As prey animals, horses are very alert and sensitive to people’s emotions. The therapy sessions exploit the natural sensitivities of horses. Participants should remain self-aware and use the horse’s behavior for feedback, while focusing on building a bond based on mutual understanding. Although rigorous scientific evidence is scarce, some small studies show that equine therapy can alleviate anxiety, depression, and impulsivity. Allergies, infections and accidents related to animals are among the risks of pet therapy. However, simple hygiene protocols keep these risks to a minimum, and the benefits are proven to outweigh the risks.
4 SAMe or S-adenosyl methionine
More commonly known as SAMe, this naturally occurring chemical is present in every cell in the body and plays an essential role in over 200 metabolic pathways.
SAMe can be used alone or with other antidepressants. 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. Also, 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 people show signs of mania or bipolar disorder, SAMe may be maladaptive or require concurrent use of mood-stabilizing medications.
Complementary and alternative therapies for mental health issues include yoga, pet therapy, and dietary supplements, such as omega-3s and SAMe. These approaches can increase feelings of well-being, reduce anxiety, alleviate symptoms of depression, and promote relaxation. Doctors may recommend these therapies to people whose symptoms are not relieved by traditional medications or psychotherapy. They may suggest people try them alongside or as an alternative to their regular medications.
Although there is evidence of benefits of these therapies for mental health conditions, such as anxiety and depression, research is limited. Therefore, many aspects remain unclear, and further large-scale studies would help determine the true benefits of these alternative therapies. Before trying alternative therapies for mental health issues, one should first discuss them with their doctor to see if these options are appropriate.
Asher, GN, et al. (2017). Complementary therapies for mental health disorders [Abstract].
Bert, F., et al. (2016). Animal-assisted intervention: A systematic review of benefits and risks.
Khanal, H., et al. (2021). Benefits, barriers and determinants of practicing yoga: A cross sectional study from Kathmandu, Nepal.
* Presse Santé strives to transmit medical knowledge in a language accessible to all. In NO CASE can the information given replace medical advice.