Mood disorders, an umbrella term used to describe mental/emotional disorders such as clinical depression, bipolar disorder, adjustment disorder, and anxiety/panic disorder, are epidemic in modern society. Mental illness affects approximately 44 million Americans, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), making it one of the most common illnesses affecting public health.
Due to the high incidence of mental illness today, prescriptions for Prozac and other antidepressants have been on the rise for the past decade. Unfortunately, these prescription drugs often have side effects that can actually reduce patients’ quality of life. These side effects include nausea, dizziness, anxiety, sexual dysfunction, and uncontrollable facial and body tics. Ironically, antidepressant drugs may even cause a small percentage of patients, mostly children, to become homicidal, suicidal, or both the same results that antidepressants are supposed to prevent. Fortunately, a number of natural alternatives to prescription antidepressants and sedatives can be helpful.
What Causes Mood Disorders?
It would be difficult to sum up the causes of mood disorders in a simple paragraph. The causes are numerous and varied. However, it is safe to point to two schools of thought on the subject. Western medicine and scientific thought believe that mood disorders are primarily biochemical in origin that is, that a chemical imbalance is at the heart of the problem. By treating the chemical imbalance, you can cure the problem.
The more holistic and natural health oriented practitioners believe, however, that treating the biochemical imbalance is like wearing glasses to improve vision: you never actually cure the cause of the problem, just treat the symptoms by making corrections to the body so the symptoms disappear. They believe that the underlying causes of Mood Disorders are psychological and neuroemotional meaning that the emotional wound must be identified and treated. It is difficult to side completely with one school of thought or the other because many patients have had success using both types of treatment.
Treatments for Mood Disorders
A good way to approach mood disorders is to treat both the biochemical and emotional roots of the problem. If you work with a psychotherapist, seek one who will support your natural approach to the biochemical side of the equation. Here are some herbal treatments you can try:
- For mild to moderate depression and anxiety, John’s wort is by far the most wellknown herbal alternative to Prozac and other pharmaceuticals. In two studies, researchers compared the effectiveness of a combination therapy of St. John’s wort and the herb valerian against the antidepressant drug amitriptylin. The results were overwhelmingly positive: One study found that valerian and St. John’s wort are just as effective as amitriptyline, while the other reported that this combination herbal therapy is actually more effective than the pharmaceutical, with fewer side effects.
- In a French study of 182 people with adjustment disorder (excessive reaction to a stressful situation or event), researchers gave the test subjects a popular French herbal blend of valerian, passionflower, kola nut, black horehound, hawthorn, and guaraná. According to the researchers, the mood disorder patients who took the French product all experienced significant relief from their anxiety symptoms.
- Of course, no mood disorder treatment plan is complete without a balanced diet and exercise. Fill your plate with whole grains, legumes, fruits, and vegetables. Most important, exercise regularly. Exercise naturally boosts the level of endorphins and serotonin (feel good chemicals) in your brain. Endorphins can give you such a high that they’re sometimes called natural heroin. Unlike any drug, prescription or illegal, endorphins are actually good for your body. The best way to raise your endorphin levels naturally is to participate in aerobic exercise. Eating peppers and pure cocoa (not necessarily at the same time) also boosts endorphins.