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Books on Depression
and Depression Self Help
Undoing Depression: What Therapy Doesn't Teach You and Medication Can't Give You, by Richard O'Connor
"Essential reading for anyone who suffers from depression. The wisdom in these pages speaks directly to each individual, as if O'Connor knows exactly what we're going through. MDSG runs dozens of support groups each week and at our literature tables this is always the bestselling book. Packed with the latest research and fresh ideas, this new, updated edition hasn't lost the engaging style and compassion of the original." Howard Smith, Director of Operations, Mood Disorders Support Group
Conquering Depression and Anxiety Through Exercise, by Keith W. Johnsgard
One of the best natural cures for depression self help is exercise. This has useful information and considers studies that prove the role of exercise in elevating mood. It also compares exercise with other forms of treatment, such as talk therapy and medication and provides evidence that aerobic and anaerobic exercise are equally effective to talk therapy and medication, even for the most severely depressed.
Potatoes Not Prozac, by Kathleen DesMaisons
Diet is an important aspect of depression self help. This is a good book on how diet can affect depression and addictions. It discusses sugar sensitivity, sugar addiction, how it relates to depression and also alcohol addiction. It has good ideas on nutrition that should be incorporated in the lifestyle of anyone who has depression, obesity or alcohol addiction. The program can be followed rigorously or casually.
Living with Depression: why Biology and Biography Matter Along the Path to Hope and Healing, by Debora Serani
This book "manages to explain depression in terms of human biology and experience without downplaying either aspect. Many times authors concentrate on one or the other, leaving the reader with the impression that only nature (or nurture) causes depression.
Living with Depression give[s] a truly holistic view of depression and its treatment, it gives it in an easily understandable format." The book also provides a discussion concerning stigma of those with mental health disorders. Review - NAMI Advocate, Fall 2011
The Breakthrough Depression Solution: A Personalized 9-Step Method for Beating the Physical Causes of Your Depression, by James Greenblatt, MD
Despite the dozens of antidepressants on the market, millions of people who seek treatment for depression fail to find ongoing relief from their symptoms. Others must go through months of medication trials before finding the prescription(s) that works best for them. To treat depression, clinicians must understand the connection between mind and body and start looking at the unique biochemistry of each individual, including physical factors such as nutrition, genetics, hormones, and stress.
Listening to Depression: How Understanding Your Pain Can Heal Your Life, by Lara Honos-Webb
What does it really mean to be depressed? You know depression as a collection of symptoms-fatigue, listlessness, feelings of worthlessness-and the source of more than a little pain. But depression is also a signal that something in your life is wrong and needs to be healed. Too often, though, we try to cut off or numb our feelings of depression instead of listening carefully to what they are telling us about our lives. This book offers insightful ways to reframe depression as a gift that can help you transform your life for the better.
Each chapter discusses a different aspect of depression as positive opportunity for growth or change. Depression can be the start of a reorientation in life, a step in the search for meaning, or a chance for letting go of hurtful aspects of the self. It can also be a chance to deal with grief and loss and learn to expand your potential. The book concludes with a section of advice about when it is important to defend against depression and how best to go about it when the need arises.
Overcoming ADHD Without Medication: A Guidebook for Parents and Teachers,
by the AYCNP
This 128 page book gives practical ideas on how parents and educators can help children to overcome symptoms associated with ADHD, without a prescription. Proven methods, many references, footnotes, bibliography, index, recommended reading and resources.
"With a lot of thought and understanding of concern, "Overcoming ADHD without Medication" is an excellent read that should very much be considered by concerned parents." ---Midwest Book Review
Art Therapy Sourcebook, by Cathy Malchiodi
Art therapy is a non-alternative psychological therapy.
Natural Prozac, by Joel Robertson
An excellent reference on depression and overcoming it without drugs.
The Anti-Depressant Fact Book: What Your Doctor Won't Tell You About Prozac, Zoloft, Paxil, Celexa, and Luvox, by Peter R. Breggin
Known as "the Ralph Nader of psychiatry," Dr. Peter Breggin has been the medical expert in countless court cases involving the use or misuse of psychoactive medications. From how these drugs work in the brain to how they treat (or don't treat) depression and obsessive-compulsive, panic, and other disorders; from the documented side and withdrawal effects to what every parent needs to know about antidepressants and teenagers.
Talking Back to Prozac, by Peter Breggin
Follow up book from same author
The Depression Cure: The 6-Step Program to Beat Depression without Drugs,
by Stephen S. Ilardi PhD
In the past decade, depression rates have skyrocketed, and one in four Americans will suffer from major depression at some point in their lives. Dr. Stephen Ilardi...reminds us that our bodies were never designed for the sleep-deprived, poorly nourished, frenzied pace of twenty-first century life. He prescribes an easy-to-follow, clinically proven program that harks back to what our bodies were originally made for and what they continue to need.
Overcoming Bipolar Disorder Using Self Help Methods: 33 Practical Ideas for Recovery, Remission and Prevention, by the AYCNP, Gabrielle Woods PhD (Editor), Dr. Laura Pipoly (Foreword)
Overcoming Bipolar Disorder Using Self Help Methods provides tested and practical ideas in self help that can improve symptoms and help most with bipolar disorder to achieve remission. (Currently eBook. Paperback scheduled for Dec 15, 2012).
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|Page updated: December 6, 2014
All-natural, Positive Steps for Better Mental Health
---------------------Self-Help for Depression
Many mental health disorders may go into complete remission with the use of steps mentioned in this article. Such results require effort, time, and patience, but they can and have been accomplished.
Overcoming depression and mental health disorders without drugs
This page has been edited and reviewed by Nisha Cooch, PhD, a research neuroscientist with expertise in medicine, neuroscience, biology, psychology, and pharmacology.
Symptoms of disorders including depression, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), eating disorders, bipolar disorder
, and schizophrenia, can be reduced through lifestyle changes and the development of an array of self-help coping skills.
Mental health facts and statistics
30-35 million people, or about 10% of the US population, suffer from depression, bipolar disorder, ADHD, anxiety disorders, chronic fatigue syndrome, OCD. Children have been being diagnosed with these disorders at an increasing rate. Accordingly, the number of children taking psychiatric medications has increased dramatically in several countries including the US, Britain, Australia.
Additionally, approximately 10% of all children in the US may currently take prescribed pharmaceutical drugs. The decision about whether to medicate can be an agonizing process for parents. Empathy and compassion is extended to anyone going through mental health problems. It is important to note that there is no single correct viewpoint or choice with regard to these options.
What is Natural Psychology and Why?
There is evidence to suggest that pharmaceutical treatments for mental health are being over-prescribed and that some forms of mental illness are being over-diagnosed. Natural psychology refers to a non-pharmaceutical method of working through mental health problems. It is safe and effective.
Attention to self-help and lifestyle changes, many positive outcomes can be accomplished. This is written out of genuine concern and empathy. We sincerely hope that some of the material that is found in this site can be of help in a spirit of giving.
Self-help for Depression and for Good Mental Health
Consider some of the many options in professional therapies for treating mental health disorders beyond prescribed drugs. In Great Britain, doctors are known to prescribe self-help books to patients as a first-line defense strategy while medication is usually given secondary consideration.
Professional therapies such as cognitive-behavioral therapy are proven to be as effective as anti-depressants for treating depression, and is also being used effectively for many other mental health disorders such as anxiety disorder, OCD, and bipolar disorder.
Read self-help books for depression or whatever mental health issues you are facing. Become an expert. There are many well-written self-help books, produced by physicians, including mainstream psychiatrists, that contain useful guidelines. Natural Prozac, by Joel Robertson, Prozac Backlash, by Dr. Joseph Glenmullen, Rethinking ADHD, by Ruth Neven, and The ADD & ADHD Question and Answer Book, by Dr. Susan Ashley, are all helpful references for both depression and ADHD, as a few examples.
It has been reported that the use of psychiatric medications for both adults and children has increased between four and seven times in the past decade, indicating the increasingly reliance on psychiatric drugs as a first-line treatment. This is proving to be true even for children as young as four years old (Olfman, S. 2006), (Sifferlin, A. 2013); (Elliot, G. 2006). Often, it is economic considerations and interests that skew the mainstream treatment choice of physicians, insurance companies, and of course, pharmaceutical companies towards drugs.
By contrast, lifestyle changes can help a person regain and maintain mental balance without resorting to medications, or an adjunctive therapy while on medications with the possible goal of weaning off anti-depressants or other psychiatric drugs. As our decisions cannot be relegated to a doctor, a family member, or another professional, facing making life changes takes self initiative and courage.
Coaching for those with ADHD or depression can help with this mission. Coaches can work with you on the phone, supporting you or your child and providing practical suggestions and encouragement. Coaches are less costly than therapists and are used instead of a therapist or in addition to one. One mental health organization suggests that coaching can act as a first line of defense for those who do not want to see a psychologist or take medication.
Mental Health Solutions and a Long-term Approach
We need to keep a positive attitude.
Lifestyle changes and self-help can lead to a permanent solution for depression and other mental health issues.
Listed are a number self-help principles and tools for good mental health, depression and other mental health issues:
- Purposeful living
- Mental hygiene
- Spiritual hygiene and attention to spiritual needs.
- Physical activity & balance
- Cleanliness & Order
- Mind Strengthening and creative activities
- Art as a natural mood stabilizer
- Honesty & Humility
- Communication concerning the present and past.
- Finding good companions, positive social interaction, and avoiding isolation.
Why a Non-Pharmaceutical Approach?
Insight into how to overcome mood disorders permanently may be provided by changes in lifestyle, mental hygiene, and physical exercise. Additionally, consideration of past experiences that might still be effecting one's emotions can improve chances of overcoming mood disorders.
Non-pharmaceutical approaches may be more effective and result in less adverse (or no) side effects. However, such approaches do initially take more time and effort for both patients and their physicians. These approaches also require patience and commitment on the part of family members, whose involvement in the treatment plan or counseling can be valuable.
One psychiatrist stated that diagnosing the illness and prescribing what he felt was appropriate medication was easy. Helping people with family issues, employment issues, emotional issues, and lifestyle issues, however, was much more difficult.
Lifestyles Changes and Self-Help for Depression and for Good Mental Health
It has been demonstrated that by addressing lifestyle issues can improve coping abilities and help individuals overcome many symptoms of mental health disorders, ranging from mild to more severe symptoms. Strict mental hygiene is something to which many patients need to give attention.
Mental Hygiene - An Important Aspect of Curing Depression
and Mental Health Self-Help
When we floss our teeth, we are surprised by how much food is stuck in between. Though our teeth may appear clean without flossing, daily flossing helps to preserve the life of one's teeth. Similarly, the minds of adults and children need frequent "mental flossing." Mental flossing involves attention to the details of what we are allowing into our minds.
The Mind Needs Rest
Our minds require rest. If you were to use a hair dryer for 24 hours each day, the hair dryer would burn out relatively quickly. The same is true with our minds. A person who is on the go constantly needs to find time to recharge the batteries. We need to get adequate natural sleep, which is not facilitated by pills or alcohol, for our minds to recharge.
By giving attention to lifestyle issues, one may also find that their mental health gradually is restored, and that a person can learn to both cope with these problems and even see them go into remission over time. This isn't a miraculous overnight transition. It is one that takes perseverance and effort and that might take some time to see significant differences in one's mood. But the end result may be a significant improvement or even a full and permanent recovery.
Do you exercise?
When we think of lifestyle changes, we may imagine quitting drinking, quit smoking or using drug use. Such changes would benefit anyone’s mental health. However, there are also many small changes that can make a big difference in one's mental health and in that of a child. For example, some have found relief from depression by maintaining an exercise regimen.
Exercise is great self-help for depression. Its positive effects are good for both the short-term and the long-term.
It has been found that brisk walking for exercise is more effective in treating mild to moderate depression than taking antidepressants, in both the short and long-term. One study at Duke University demonstrated that not only was exercise more effective than antidepressants, it was even more effective than the combination of medicine and exercise. This proved to be true in both the short and long-term.
Exercise, when done regularly, increases levels of serotonin and endorphins in the brain and thus contributes to improved moods. These findings demonstrate that mood can be improved without manufactured pharmaceuticals.
Brisk walking and exercise is said to be a better and more long-lasting treatment for depression than that of medication. Even if you seek professional treatment for depression, you should still work hard at self-help measures and lifestyle changes. Brisk walking and other forms of physical exercise are great self-help strategies for depression.
Physical exercise is good for you because:
- It helps you to focus
- It stimulates positive emotions
- It contributes to positive self-worth
- It helps stimulate endorphins and opiates in the brain, giving a natural sense of
- Its positive effects are long-lasting when continued.
- It improves physical fitness and stimulates the heart.
- It contributes to weight loss.
- It can give the mind time to rest (try to walk or engage in exercise without listening to music to give your mind a rest).
Other forms of exercise also help. Henry, a man in his 60s who has experienced moderate depression for a number of years and overcame it, takes no medication. Instead he swims three or four times a week. He says it is the only thing that keeps him out of depression and away from antidepressant treatment.
Attention to diet and engaging in mind strengthening activities also beneficial in prevention of mental health disorders and in improving symptoms of depression.
Food to avoid are: sugar, sodas, cakes, candies, ice cream, deep fried foods, white bread, white rice, butter (or ghee).
Replace such foods with: fresh vegetables, fruit, nuts, whole grains, whole wheat bread, and whole grain rice.
Specifically, regular, healthful meals, with low sugar and balanced nutrition, as well as regular healthful breakfasts improve mental health and can provide self-help
Mind Strengthening Activities
Additionally, engaging in mind strengthening activities can do much for positive long- term gains in one's mental health. "Mental hygiene" is a term that has been coined by psychiatrists and it is something many need to give attention to in order to restore their mental balance.
A definition of mental hygiene in modern medicine refers to the "branch of psychiatry that deals with the science and practice of maintaining and restoring mental health, and of preventing mental disorder through education, early treatment, and public health measures." (American Heritage® Medical Dictionary. 2007). In the context of this discussion, it refers to preventive and restorative measures initiated through self-help or recommended by mental health professionals.
Just a little bit of sand in the engine of a car can render it inoperable. Shipowners regularly spend large sums of money to clean barnacles from their ships to keep the ships running smoothly.
Like cars and ships, the mind is sensitive. It doesn't take much "mental sand" for some to experience mental health problems. By keeping our minds clean, we can prevent mental disorders. For example, avoiding violence in the media (movies, TV, video games), and pornography can improve the mental health of individuals of all ages.
Talking Things Out, Journaling, Poetry, Spirituality
Talking things out with a good listener or a trained professional can be of value in relieving oneself of emotional burdens. Such burdens may arise from childhood trauma, spousal abuse, or other emotional turmoil. Whether talking to a therapist or psychologist, or a friend, spouse, minister or teacher, discussing emotional wounds can provide a path to repair. Specifically, by encouraging the organization of one's thoughts, such discussion can promote mental and emotional balance and contribute to self-insight.
Another mode for organizing one's thoughts is writing in a journal. Like discussing issues, writing about them provides good self-help for depression and other mental health disorders helping to clear one's mind of "clutter."
Journaling can be cathartic and help organize the mind.
Writing poetry can also be something of a creative catharsis, as well as a tool for building self esteem.
Prayer can also be cathartic, build inner-strength, and raise personal esteem, leading to balance.
Similarly, attention to spiritual needs in a balanced way can contribute to better mental health.
In addition to mental, emotional, and physical considerations, humans are also spiritual beings. Our mental health is tied up in our spirituality as well and spiritual hygiene is vital to maintain our mental balance. It takes much effort to be aware of our spiritual needs and to fulfill those needs. Some have found daily Bible reading to be a strengthening aid.
Randy, a young adult who suffered with recurring panic attacks, stated that prayer was helpful in his overcoming his anxiety disorder. Prayer can also be helpful for depression and bipolar disorder because it can be a valuable source of strength, guidance and comfort. Specifically, prayer in this context refers to speaking openly or communicating with God about one's problems and asking for help. (See page: Spirituality, a Vital Key to Good Mental Health – on-site). While this page approaches the subject of prayer from the perspective of a personal diety, it recognizes that there are many other ways that individuals approach spirituality.
In addition to mental, emotional and physical considerations, humans are also spiritual beings. Our mental health is tied up in our spirituality as well. Spiritual hygiene is vital to maintain our mental balance. There are many things that in a spiritual way that can effect our mental health and emotional state. It takes much effort to be aware of our spiritual needs and to fulfill those needs. Some have found daily Bible reading to be a strengthening aid.
Preventive Medicine, Depression Self-help and Natural Psychology Solutions
Dr. George Albeewas former president of the American Psychological Association and professor emeritus at Vermont University, until his death in 2006. He advanced the idea that the roots of mental illness lay in the social structures and pressures, stresses, and traumas that people have experienced.
At a time when psychiatric medications were becoming widespread, he taught and wrote extensively about how medications were not the answer to mental illness. He especially felt that children should never be prescribed psychiatric medications.
The widespread use of medication treatment in psychiatry is a relatively new practice. The first true psychiatric medications that were extensively used were developed in the 1950s, and it wasn't until the mid to late 1950s that thorazine, a psychotropic, atypical antipsychotic, was used in psychiatric hospitals. Since that time, hundreds, perhaps thousands, of different psychiatric medications have been developed. Medicines such as barbiturates and amphetamines, developed in the 1930s, started to be used more frequently in the late 1950s and 1960s.
Children, Mental Health Disorders, Child Abuse, and Prevention
Children are being bombarded today with overwhelming family, social, and media issues. Family life has deteriorated for many. However, because children thrive on love and attention, they need the support and love of a father and mother. Up to 50% of children in the U.S. will be without one or the other parent at some time in their life.
Additionally, some children are abused by a parent. An estimated one-million U.S. children experience some form of child abuse or neglect each year, which is described as only "the tip of the iceberg" (Gillespie, C., Nemeroff, 2005). One news report puts the percentage of children who experience some form of child abuse in Brazil, as one example, at 25%, with 5.6% of Brazilian girls experiencing sexual abuse (Bassani D., et al. 2009).
Other countries show similar trends. In some Asian countries (India is one), the percentage of child abuse soars to 53% according to a 2007 report, Study on Child Abuse – India 2007 conducted by the Ministry of Women and Child Development – Government of India. Current statistics indicate that about between 4% of men in high-income countries to more than 40% of women in parts of Africa and have been victims of child abuse throughout the world, according to statistics from the World Health Organization (WHO) (WHO. 2009).
Child abuse can lead to emotional wounds and to mental health disorders not only for the children, but for adults who have been abused as children (Gillespie, C., Nemeroff, 2005). Love, support, and gentleness are keys to healing the mind and emotional wounds of children who have been abused.
Self-help and the Importance of Self Esteem
Self esteem is a vital component of a healthy mind. When we see tangible results of our own work, it helps to build a healthy self-esteem. Mind strengthening activities can help. Doing good things for others helps us to build positive feelings about ourselves. Creative endeavors also are of help in building self-esteem. Avoiding self-destructive behavior and having a regular job also build a positive sense of self-worth. Choosing associates who are a source of strength also is of value, rather than those who might be engaging in actions that are self-destructive such as drinking excessively or taking drugs.
Cognitive behavioral therapy, which can also be considered from a self-help perspective, helps individuals to get away from an all or nothing mode of thinking. We all make mistakes. Many people are wounded from the past and present. We need to accept our failures, mistakes, and shortcomings and work to overcome them. We should not to self-flagellate for past or present problems. We need to accept God's mercy, and look to God for help. We need to learn to be merciful both to others and ourselves and realize that that is how God looks at things--God is there to help, not to condemn.
One high school teacher in a public school talks openly to students about God, and when she counsels them in a professional setting, she encourages them to look to God, or to someone higher than themselves. "You need someone bigger than yourself," she says, to get out of the problems that you are in and to cope with them. Those that follow this advice, she says, are twice as likely to succeed. We need to accept the love and mercy and try to do the best we can; if we do our personal best, then we are doing well. And this goes for both those suffering with mental health problems and for parents and family of those who suffer as well.
"Don't think of doctors as God," was one suggestion on the National Resource Website for CHADD (for ADD and ADHD). In other words, we have to take charge of our own lives and make informed decisions. Parents need to do this if their children have mental health problems. Much can be accomplished on the home front. Attention to spiritual needs and learning to have a balanced view of yourself, accepting yourself and forgiving yourself, working towards improvement, learning to be happy with every small positive step forward, are big steps in self-help for depression and for good mental health in general.
Art has value in mental health therapy
Art is a form of recreation and, much like a tranquilizer, can help calm the mind. Particularly if engaged in regularly, art can help to stabilize the mood of those with bipolar disorder those with ADHD because art helps one to establish new thought patterns. It can thus be thought of as a natural mood stabilizer.
Art can be of value in strengthening the mind, and provide both children and adults with a healthy form of recreation. It can be a positive force by replacing less healthy forms of recreation like watching TV, movies, pornography, or playing video games. It can also be a tool for building self-esteem. It can be a peaceful healing tool for those who may have suffered from abuse.
Love is an essential element of good mental health
Both the giving and receiving love are essential components of human emotional needs. Any time that we spend in giving of ourselves to help other people can help us to have fulfilling and happier lives and can contribute to healthful thought patterns.
The giving and receiving of love, is an important aspect of good mental health and recovery from depression.
Earnest effort is need to recover from mental health disorders and difficulties.
It takes much effort for educators, parents and doctors to work together to protect children and teenagers from potentially destructive influences and to provide home and school atmospheres that give a child the love and peace required for good mental health. It takes effort for adults also to learn new lifestyles or habits that can contribute to better mental health. Breaking free from lifestyles and habits that contribute to mental health problems, including depression, can be difficult and take a great deal of determination, and at times professional help. It is well worth the effort. Whether or not a person with depression or any other mental health disorder decides to take psychiatric drugs or not, self-help is a very important part of successful recovery. Educate yourself on self-help methods for whatever mental health issues you are dealing with, and your chances for successful recovery will be more certain.
We sincerely hope that this information will help achieve a better success ratio with the treatment of mental health disorders for both adults and children in this rapidly changing world.
References for Natural Psychology page
1. Bassani DG, Palazzo LS, Béria JU, Gigante LP, Figueiredo AC, Aerts DR, Raymann BC.
BMC Public Health. 2009 May 11;9:133. doi: 10.1186/1471-2458-9-133.
Child sexual abuse in southern Brazil and associated factors: a population-based study.
Statistics based on a survey of 1040 households indicate that 5.6% of girls and 1.6% of girls are sexually abused in Brasil.
2. Elliot, G. R. (2006). Medicating Young Minds: How to Know If Psychiatric Drugs Will Help or Hurt Your Child. New York: Stewart, Tabori and Chang.
"Treating a child with drugs before it's clear what is going on is worse than not treating a child at all. Let's face it: We are experimenting on these kids without tracking the results." -Glen Elliott, M.D., Ph.D. (it added)
3. Gillespie, C. F., MD, PhD, Nemeroff, C. B., MD, PhD. (2005, October). EARLY LIFE STRESS AND DEPRESSION - Childhood trauma may lead to neurobiologically unique mood disorders. Adults with a history of child abuse or neglect may respond differently than other depressed patients to the usual treatments. Current Psychiatry. Vol. 4, No. 10.
4. Global Health Risks. 2009. World Health Organization (WHO).
5. Olfman, S. (2006). No Child Left Different. Westport, CT: Praeger.
6. Sifferlin, A. (2013). Fewer Drugs Being Prescribed to Treat Mental Illness Among Kids.
"From the early 1990s to the early 2000s, the number of young children on psychotropic drugs, which include anti-depressants, stimulants, mood stabilizers and anti-anxiety agents, increased by two- to three-fold." This includes "preschoolers" [generally ages 4 and 5], according to the article. The headline of this article is misleading in that it reports on a study that indicates that the number of children being prescribed psychiatric drugs is now stable (not decreasing), but that it is not increasing dramatically as it had been until around the year 2009.
"more than one in five specialists who diagnose and recommend treatment for preschoolers with ADHD turn to drug therapy first, either alone or in tandem with behavior therapy." (Monetary considerations are noted as the primary reason why doctors rely heavily on drug treatment rather than other therapies).
7. Study on Child Abuse – India 2007. (2007). Ministry of Women and Child Development – Government of India. https://wcd.nic.in/childabuse.pdf
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