for better mental health

Antidepressants

Explains what antidepressants are, how they work, possible side effects and information about withdrawal.

What are the alternatives to antidepressants?

If you don't want to take antidepressants, there are lots of alternative treatments you can try. In fact, if you are diagnosed with mild depression, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) guidelines for treating depression recommend that doctors offer you other treatments ahead of medication. 

If you are taking antidepressants, you may also want to use other options for treatment and support, as well as your medication.

This page has information on some of the common alternatives to antidepressants. You may find these helpful to use instead of your medication, or alongside it:

Talking therapies

The NICE guidelines for treating depression recommend that doctors offer you a type of talking therapy or counselling. This will often be cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). Therapy may be offered instead of antidepressants, or in addition to them. 

See our pages on talking therapy and counselling for information about the other kinds of therapy that are available.

Mindfulness

Mindfulness is a way of giving your full attention to the present moment. Some studies show that practising mindfulness can help to manage depression.

Some structured mindfulness-based therapies have also been developed to treat mental health problems more formally. For example, NICE recommends mindfulness-based cognitive therapy for managing depression.

Arts and creative therapies

Arts and creative therapies help you express your feelings through things like painting, clay work, music or drama therapy. They can help you deal with your symptoms, especially if you find it difficult to talk about how you’re feeling.

Ecotherapy

Ecotherapy is a type of therapeutic treatment which involves doing outdoor activities in nature. This may include working on a conservation project or gardening. Or you may walk or cycle through woodland or other areas of nature.

Complementary and alternative therapies

Some people find complementary and alternative therapies help to manage their symptoms. For example, this may be aromatherapy, reflexology or acupuncture. Complementary therapies may also help manage some of the side effects of medication, if you decide to continue with it.

Some herbal remedies can interact with antidepressants and other types of medication. So if you are thinking about taking a herbal remedy alongside any medication, speak to your doctor or pharmacist about whether this is safe.

St John's wort

St John's wort is a herbal medicine that is sometimes used to treat symptoms of depression and anxiety. It is available to buy without needing a prescription.

There is some uncertainty about the effects of St John’s Wort, as well as the correct dose to take and how it interacts with other medicines. It is best to seek advice from your doctor before taking it, especially if you are already taking any kind of medication. 

Peer support

Peer support allows you to make connections with people who have similar or shared experiences to yours. If you’d like to try peer support, you could:

  • contact Mind’s Infoline or a local Mind to find out what support there is in your area
  • try an online peer support community, such as Mind’s supportive community Side by Side.

"[What helps me is] running, healthy diet and Pilates. I also have friends and a support group that I trust."

Look after your physical health

  • Think about what you eat and drink. Eating a balanced and nutritious diet may help to manage some of your symptoms. Drinking plenty of water can also help your mental wellbeing. See our pages on food and mood for more information. If you have a difficult relationship with food and eating, our pages on eating problems may help.
  • Try to be more active. Many people find regular physical activity helps to lift their mood, boost their energy levels and keep them grounded in reality. See our pages on physical activity and your mental health for more information.
  • Try to get enough sleep. Getting enough sleep can sometimes feel difficult. But having a good amount of quality sleep is very helpful for your mental health. See our pages on sleep problems for more information.

This information was published in September 2020. We will revise it in 2023.

References are available on request. If you would like to reproduce any of this information, see our page on permissions and licensing.

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