Depression – Mind Body Therapies

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Mind / Body Therapies therapies for Depression

While nobody is suggesting that "depression can be overcome completely with these therapies, there is scientific evidence to show that slowing down the world’s assault on our senses by engaging in some of these techniques can be a very beneficial component in the prevention and treatment of many types of mental health problem.


There have been a number of studies which have shown that practicing yoga can help symptoms of both depression and anxiety and forms a good basis of secondary treatment for these disorders.

A recent Chinese review looked at studies that aimed at using yoga to improve sleep quality and lessen depression in elderly patients through its physiological and psychological effects. The aerobic exercise recommended in the “Lifestyle” section of this strategy may be impractical for elderly people or others suffering from certain additional conditions, in these cases yoga may be a helpful substitute. The review concluded that “Yoga significantly reduced the depressive symptoms of elderly participants and improved their quality of sleep after 6 months. Findings were similar for elderly living in institutions and in the community.”

A separate American review undertaken in 2012 looked at 18 randomised controlled trials on the effectiveness of yoga on quality of life in older adults and concluded that it might be superior to conventional physical activity programmes for older people but that further research was required.

At the other end of the age spectrum a 2012 study on 92 depressed pregnant women at 22 weeks gestation found that the group assigned to 20 minute group sessions of tai chi or yoga for 12 weeks had lower summary depression scores and better sleep patterns than those of the control group.


Sleep and Touch Therapy

Depression is a common symptom in those suffering from fibromyalgia, a condition where patients suffer chronic widespread pain which is thought to be due to abnormal levels of certain brain chemicals.

Patient QI found a study that assessed the effects of sleep, aromatherapy, music and touch therapy on fibromyalgia and depression symptoms. The two year study comprised 162 patients who were separated into two therapy groups and one control group. Results showed that touch-music-aromatherapy gave the largest reduction in depressive symptoms followed by the sleep-music-aromatherapy group and that there was a slight reduction in the control group. The greatest improvement was found in the symptoms of restless sleep, headache, morning fatigue, exhaustion, crying and stomach and bowel problems.



Jasmine oil is one of the classic aromatherapy treatments for stimulating and invigorating better mood. Patient QI found a study that investigated the effects of jasmine oil massage on the arousal level of the autonomic nervous system. Forty healthy people were included in the study and split into two groups. The treatment group were massaged with jasmine oil aromatherapy and the control group were massaged with non-aromatic oil. The blood pressure, pulse rate, blood oxygen saturation, breathing rate and skin temperature of the participants were measured before and after massage treatment. Participants also rated their own emotional state based on criteria such as relaxation, vigor, calmness, attentiveness, mood and alertness. Results showed that the jasmine oil group had increased breathing rate, blood oxygen saturation and blood pressure compared to the control group. On the emotional level, the jasmine oil group rated themselves as being more alert, vigorous and less relaxed than the people in the control group. From these results jasmine oil was believed to have a stimulating effect on individuals and could be used to help relieve the symptoms of depression.


Negative Air Ions

Air ionisation has been a study area for many years, in particular the association of negative ions and mood. Patient QI found the most recent publication on this subject was a review of the published studies to date. The review concluded that studies did not show a clear effect of negative ionization on anxiety, mood, relaxation, sleep or personal comfort. However, negative ionization was associated with lower ratings of depression. Patients with seasonal or chronic depression responded extremely well to high density negative ionization. Low density ionization worked for seasonal depression but not for chronic depression.

Recent studies have shown that light therapy can be as effective a treatment as antidepressants for those suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), but there has also been research into its effectiveness for patients with bipolar depression. A 2012 trial looked at bright light therapy versus negative air ions for their ability to alleviate depressive symptoms in bipolar patients in an attempt to reduce the number of drugs needed to control their symptoms, which in turn were leading to an accumulation of side effects. Forty-four adults were divided into groups and treated with either low-density or high-density negative ion generator or bright light therapy for 8 weeks. They were monitored using the Hamilton Depression Rating Scale with Atypical Depression Supplement, while adverse events were assessed using the Young Mania Rating Scale and Systematic Assessment for Treatment Emergent effects. There were no statistical differences between the groups but major adverse events including switches into hypomania were rare. Further research was recommended.



Psychological therapies have been found to be particularly effective for depression and can be used on their own or in conjunction with antidepressants. Most psychological treatments for this condition last for 12-20 weekly sessions with each session typically lasting 1-2 hours.


Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy has been shown to be particularly effective in treating depression, including depression resistant to other treatments or as a supplement to antidepressants. CBT addresses depression from the idea that our ways of thinking can trigger or fuel the condition itself. A qualified therapist helps patients to identify harmful or unhelpful ideas and thoughts which contribute to feelings of depression. Once identified, it is easier for the patient to change these patterns. CBT courses are usually of between 12 and 16 weeks duration. In a recent trial on 83 adults with major depression who received CBT though a workshop and regular consultations with clinicians, it was found that the CBT group showed greater improvements in depression symptoms than those in the comparison group. Furthermore it was discovered that the greater the pre-treatment symptom severity prior to the trial the better the response to CBT, although the presence of comorbid personality disorders gave poorer results.

There are a wide variety of books and CDs which can help you understand the principles of CBT and can offer a guided self-help programme. There are also computer and internet-based self-help CBT programmes which are supported by trained clinicians who monitor progress. These options are most effective for patients with mild depression because they involve more input and effort at the outset, which those with more severe forms of depression may find it impossible to achieve if their energy levels are low. CBT can also be practiced in group settings.


Interpersonal Therapy (IPT)

This type of therapy can sometimes be used instead of CBT if it is felt that your personal relationships have a very significant role in the state of your mood. A therapist helps the patient to alter unhelpful thinking and behaviour and improve their interaction with other people. This type of therapy can be particularly helpful for those who become depressed after a bereavement or following disputes at work or with a partner.


Behavioural activation

This type of therapy is used when a person becomes depressed by their inability to stop over-thinking their lives, leading them to become inactive because of it. A therapist helps the patient to stop constantly ruminating and be able to live an active and healthy life again. This can be used in conjunction with CBT.

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