for better mental health


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

Are there any alternatives to antidepressants?

If you don't want to take antidepressants, there are lots of alternative treatments you can try. In fact, unless your depression is very severe, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) guidelines recommend that antidepressants should not be your main treatment.

NICE suggests that before prescribing you medication, your doctor should recommend:

(See our pages on talking treatments for more information about the different kinds that are available).

What other therapies are available?

You might also find it helpful to investigate an alternative therapy, such as:

"Antidepressants didn’t work for me – I took [an antidepressant] for many months without recovering from depression. [For me], mindfulness helps to change the way you think and how you deal with negative thoughts."

What else can I try?

Other things you could try include:

  • Thinking about what you eat and drink – food and mood are related, so you might be able to lift your mood by making changes in your diet (see our pages on food and mood for more information).
  • St John's Wort – this is a herbal medicine that is sometimes used to treat symptoms of depression and anxiety, and is available without a prescription (see our pages on St John's Wort for more information).
  • Waiting – for some people feelings of low mood are temporary and can go away with time, so your doctor may suggest that you wait and continue to monitor your mood before being referred to any treatments. In this case you might be offered a second appointment to see how you're feeling after a few days before discussing treatment options.

This information was published in 2016. We will revise it in 2019.

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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