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How to Treat Mental Illness Without Medication

can mental illness be treated without medication

Receiving a mental health diagnosis can be devastating, both for those affected and for their families. However, there is good news. Mental illness is very treatable and manageable. Today, so many people with mental illness go on to achieve recovery and lead fulfilling lives after treatment. You can, too. 

There are many different treatment options available to those struggling with a mental health disorder. Treatment is not one-size-fits-all and there is not one, single type of treatment or therapy that will work for everyone. Each person struggling with a mental illness will require their own, individualized treatment plan. This treatment plan must be based on their condition, the severity of their symptoms, other co-occurring disorders, as well as their wishes and needs. Most people receive a combination of treatments, including psychotherapy and medication, during the recovery process.

However, some people may prefer to treat their mental health conditions without medication. While medications have been found to be very effective in treating certain mental health disorders, there are personal reasons why someone might choose to go on without medication assistance. They might not respond well to medications, for example, or maybe prefer holistic modalities. If you are here, you too might be wondering how to treat your mental illness without medication. 

It’s important to speak with your physician or psychologist before making any decisions regarding medical treatment. However, you will be encouraged to know that it is possible to treat mental illness without medication, and there a range of holistic treatments available today. According to the Mental Health America, “Things like therapy, brain stimulation, supplements, and self-care are scientifically-backed as effective ways to reduce the symptoms of certain mental illnesses.”

Let’s explore more on this topic below.

Types of Mental Health Treatment Without Medication

  • Psychotherapy

Also called talk therapy, psychotherapy is a type of mental health treatment that helps a person identify and change negative feelings, thought patterns, and behaviors that are disrupting their day-to-day lives. There are many types of psychotherapy approaches, but all usually involve open conversations and therapeutic activities guided by a mental health professional. The goal of psychotherapy is to get to the root of a person’s mental health struggles, understand their triggers, and help them develop skills for managing and coping with difficult symptoms. Ultimately, psychotherapy works to help individuals lead more productive and fulfilling lives long-term. It is one of the most effective types of treatment for mental health disorders today, and does not require prescription medication.

  • Support Groups

Peer support, as we’ve discussed previously, can be a helpful tool in overcoming mental illness. Support groups are group meetings, typically led by a mental health professional, where members can share their stories and help guide one another throughout the recovery process. These groups offer a safe space in which you can connect with others who are walking in similar shoes. This helps to reduce feelings of isolation and loneliness, which are often experienced by people struggling with their mental health. Support groups can be found in your community, and may be offered as an extension of mental health treatment programs. Many are focused on specific topics (such as depression or trauma), so be sure to take some time to research your options and find the right fit for you. Support groups are typically recommended after, or in combination with, other types of mental health treatment like psychotherapy.

  • Brain Stimulation

Sometimes, brain stimulation treatments are used to treat mental health disorders. While these are not medical treatments, they are also not widely used and are typically offered in rare instances when medications and other therapies have not worked. Brain stimulation therapies include electroconvulsive therapy, cranial electrotherapy stimulation, and transcranial magnetic stimulation. You can learn more about these therapies by visiting Mental Health America online. Be sure to explore their resources carefully and ensure you understand all the risks and benefits associated with these treatments.

  • Holistic Modalities

If you are looking for ways to treat mental illness naturally, there are changes you can make in your lifestyle to mitigate the symptoms of a mental health disorder. Holistic activities like exercise, yoga, meditation, mindfulness, and creative therapies are examples of proven ways that can support one’s recovery journey. At Turnbridge’s mental health treatment center, holistic and recreational activities are always integrated into each client’s treatment plan. In order to get the most out of treatment, and make it stick, it’s important to incorporate enjoyable activities and experiences into the mix – which is why Turnbridge clients have access to an on-site fitness center, yoga classes, art studios, swimming pools, team sports, and natural excursions from the mountains to the beach.

Evidence-Based Therapy for Mental Illness

Psychotherapy can be an incredible tool in overcoming mental illness. Therapy typically takes place in a confidential, one-on-one environment with a mental health professional. However, therapy can also involve groups of patients facing similar challenges. As noted above, the goal of therapy is to help you navigate your feelings, understand your mind, build healthier habits, and change attitudes or behaviors to improve your quality of life. And research shows that this approach works.

According to research cited by Mental Health America, psychotherapy has been shown to reduce disability, morbidity, and mortality in patients. Evidence shows it also improves work functioning, decreases psychiatric hospitalization, and leads to fewer relapses of anxiety and depression than medication use alone. Of course, psychotherapy is not a one-size-fits-all approach and must be customized to meet the needs of every individual. There are different types of psychotherapy modalities that might be recommended for you, including (but not limited to):

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is one of the most common types of therapy recommended today, and that’s because of its effectiveness. According to the American Psychology Association, cognitive behavioral therapy has been shown to be especially helpful in the treatment of depression and anxiety disorders, as well as eating disorders, substance use disorders, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder.

Cognitive behavioral therapy is based on the idea that your thoughts influence your feelings and behaviors, and become automatic. A person doesn’t really think about this connection, and thought and behavioral patterns become hard to change. CBT works to give individuals more control over their mind and actions, by bringing attention to how they are thinking, and how those thoughts influence how they feel and act. CBT then teaches individuals how to change negative thinking, attitudes, and behaviors, and develop positive and healthy coping techniques to overcome mental health struggles.

  • Dialectical Behavioral Therapy

Dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) is another type of evidence-based psychotherapy approach that works to help individuals better manage their emotions, thoughts, behaviors, and relationships. Dialectical behavioral therapy is founded on the principles of CBT, but was adapted to meet the needs of patients who experience very intense emotions and have trouble regulating their feelings. Thus, it places greater emphasis on the emotional and social aspects of a person’s wellbeing. It has been found to be especially effective in treating personality disorders and PTSD, as well as mitigating self-destructive behaviors and suicidal thoughts. In fact, research supports that adolescents who receive inpatient DBT have reduced incidents of suicide attempts, self-injury, restraints, and hospitalization.

DBT helps individuals accept the reality of their lives, their feelings, and their behaviors, and understand how they affect one another. Further, DBT teaches them how to change all of these things through strategies like mindfulness, positive communication, emotional regulation, and techniques to help tolerate distress. The main goals of DBT, as stated perfectly by Very Well Mind, are to “teach people how to live in the moment, develop healthy ways to cope with stress, regulate their emotions, and improve their relationships with others.”

Non-Medical Ways to Support Your Mental Health Recovery

There are many natural ways to support your recovery from mental illness. Moving your body, exercising your mind, and spending time in nature are all examples of steps you can take to create more balance in your life and peace in your mind. 

  • Exercise

One way you can support your mental health recovery is through physical exercise. Studies have long connected the relationship between exercise and mental health, showing that moving your body can significantly enhance your energy levels, stress levels, and overall mood. For example, studies from Harvard found that running for 15 minutes per day reduced the risk of depression by 26 percent.

  • Yoga

According to Mental Health America, “Studies have shown that yoga can have positive benefits for people with several types of mental health conditions, including depression, ADHD, anxiety, schizophrenia and PTSD.” While yoga is not a replacement for professional mental health treatment, it can be an incredible way to support your treatment plan.

  • Meditation and Mindfulness

Meditation and mindfulness activities help individuals to reach a calm mental state, concentrate on the present, accept current feelings and sensations, and let go of any negativity in that moment. Research shows that mindfulness-based therapy is effective for reducing stress, anxiety, depression, and substance addiction.

  • Time Outdoors

Science shows that spending time in nature can greatly improve mood, reduce stress, relax the brain, and generate positive emotions. Nature has also been shown to have many cognitive benefits, such as enhancing one’s attention, memory, and cognitive control. To support your recovery journey, consider taking a walk or hike, setting up an outdoor picnic, or heading to the beach. And if you don’t have time for a long excursion, simply sit outside in the sun. Just ten minutes of outdoor time can allow you to escape the everyday bustle and improve your state of mind.

Where to Treat Your Mental Illness Without Medication

Now that you know it’s possible to treat mental illness without medication, you may be wondering how to start the process. While you can start integrating some of these changes at home, it’s important to consult with a mental health treatment professional to develop a personalized treatment plan. For severe symptoms and persistent mental health disorders, professional treatment is highly recommended for a lasting recovery.

Residential treatment programs are especially effective in treating mental health disorders. These programs offer 24/7 watchful care and consistent access to support services, as well as a safe and serene environment where individuals can focus on their healing. In a residential setting, each client receives a personal evaluation and is recommended a tailored plan of care, which includes a range of psychotherapies to meet their mental health needs.

Turnbridge offers personalized treatment plans for adolescents and young adults struggling with a range of mental health disorders. If you are interested in speaking with a treatment specialist, or receiving an evaluation for your loved one, please do not hesitate to reach out to us. Call 877-581-1793 to learn more or begin exploring our program options online here.