5 Anxiety And Depression Treatment Methods That Can Work For You
By: Michael Puskar
Updated February 11, 2021
Medically Reviewed By: Lauren Guilbeault
Depression and anxiety are two conditions that are comorbid, meaning that they can exist alongside each other and cause a variety of problems for those affected by them. This article will show you how to cure depression and anxiety at the same time by giving you options that are evidenced to work.
If you have depression and anxiety, psychotherapy is one of the most effective methods available for treating both of them at the same time.
Psychotherapy is a broad term that can include many different forms of support that aim to address a client's mental conditions by psychological techniques rather than medication. It is also sometimes known as talk-therapy for this reason.
Therapy can be applied to a wide array of issues, and while certain ones may be better than others for a particular topic, there are others that are very flexible and can be structured to suit the needs of the individual.
One of the most practical forms of psychotherapy is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) because it is designed to reprogram a person's negative thought patterns into ones that are more positive and productive. This is often done by exposing the individual to the subject of their fear and anxiety, which reduces the severity of the emotional response to them.
For this reason, it has been one of the most popular choices for treating other conditions such as OCD, where people may have anxiety regarding specific themes.
Interpersonal psychotherapy is another type that has been empirically tested and shown to improve anxiety and mood disorders by linking his or her feelings to a particular life event, specifically involving the patient's family, friends, and other peers.
Essentially, by identifying the source of the problem and learning how to cope with that, they will notice an improvement in mood.
For example, if a patient comes in feeling depressed because of the death of a loved one, the therapist will be able to identify that the depression is not their fault, nor is it permanent. Afterward, the therapist will work with the patient over the course of around 12 weeks to deal specifically with bereavement, and through this, he or she should be able to cope much better.
- Regular Exercise
Studies show that those who exercise for around 2 to 2.5 hours per week at a moderate intensity demonstrated fewer and less severe symptoms of depression and anxiety.
There are multiple biological mechanisms for why exercise is beneficial to mental health. Here are some of the areas that are positively affected when participating in physical activity on a regular basis :
- Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal (HPA) Axis
- Monoamine System
- Opioid System
- Neurotrophic factors and Neurogenesis
In these sections of the brain, chemicals, such as endorphins, that are related to mood and new neuron growth can be promoted and, as a result, can reduce depression and anxiety.
However, exercise can also have non-biological or psychological mechanisms that can positively impact individuals.
For example, moderately-intense physical activity can reduce one's sensitivity to anxiety because exercise can create a similar physiological response (i.e., rapid heart rate and sweating) as being placed in a situation that is stressful or dreadful.
Therefore, people who are frequently exercising hard enough will not fear the physical effects of anxiety as much because they feel it on a regular basis and have become desensitized to it.
Overall, exercise is also an excellent way to distract you from the thoughts that have been bothering you. There is also some evidence that its anxiolytic effects last for a longer period of time and are equal, if not more effective, than techniques that are distraction-based such as therapy and meditation.
- Meditation & Relaxation Techniques
Similar to exercise, meditation is another self-help method that can help calm your anxiety and depression and has been used for centuries in Asian cultures, especially India.
In recent years, there has been increased empirical support for meditation, which has led to more people utilizing it for their mental and physical health, especially stress-related conditions.
Mindfulness meditation is one form that has been getting traction, and it is referred to as the "process of intentionally bringing one's attention, in a nonjudgmental manner, to the internal and external experiences that exist in the present moment." 
By improving mindfulness through regular practice, a person can be more grounded in the present, rather than worrying about things in the future. It also teaches people that their thoughts are just thoughts − nothing more. This can help people's sense of wellbeing and provide them with more productive ways of dealing with stress.
Various forms of meditation can be calming and can induce the relaxation response, activating the parasympathetic nervous system that governs relaxation over the sympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for the fight-or-flight response.
These changes can result in specific physiological changes, such as a decrease in heart, metabolic, and breathing rates. Positive changes like these can help digestive issues and even relieve chronic pain; especially it is caused by depression.
Yoga is another option that has seen similar results and has grown in popularity in the United States, with classes being widely available.
However, like meditation, there is also some variation between yoga techniques − some may be gentle while others might be uncomfortable, at least at first. Additionally, due to the physical nature of it, some people might choose to practice yoga instead of other exercises.
- Eat Healthy & Get Enough Sleep
Although there is no "miracle food" for curing depression and anxiety, eating enough of the right foods and getting adequate nutrients can certainly have an impact on your mood and cognitive functioning.
Research has established the connection between food and feelings, and diet has been associated with multiple mental conditions, including depression. Therefore, studies have been carried out on specific diets to understand this correlation further.
- Fruits and vegetables
It is also characterized by relatively low meat and dairy consumption, especially compared to the Western diet. Alcohol consumption is permitted, but moderately, such as a glass of wine.
Through this balanced diet, people are able to get an adequate amount of nutrients that they need, especially folate, fatty acids, and B-vitamins, which have been documented for their protective properties and may play a key role in depression prevention.
Sleep's role in anxiety and depression treatments is less ambiguous in that every living organism requires rest to function properly. Not getting enough sleep can make you feel moodier and trying to remedy it with caffeinated beverages can contribute to anxiety.
Those who are affected by these two conditions might have a hard time going to sleep because of their intrusive thoughts and may also oversleep when they manage to get shut-eye. Practicing better sleeping habits like setting a strict bedtime, turning off electronics, and avoiding caffeine are some strategies that can help you catch up on lost rest and improve your sleep quality.
The last of the depression and anxiety treatments on this list is medication, which can be prescribed by your primary doctor or psychiatrist.
Many people may be hesitant to try medications, but studies show that they can help treat anxiety and depression, especially when taken in conjunction with treatments like therapy. If you feel that you may benefit from them, consult with your doctor who can get you started on treatment and guide you the rest of the way. It's important to speak with your doctor about all medication options before you try them, to avoid potentially negative side effects.
One of the most effective treatments that does not use prescription medication, though it can complement that course, is psychotherapy. BetterHelp.com offers online counseling and therapy sessions from licensed professionals who are experienced in helping those with both anxiety and depression. Online sessions can be taken in the comfort of your own home, without any pressure, and are also more affordable than typical in-person sessions. A review of literature shows that online counseling is just as effective as traditional therapy. You'll be able to choose which, or which combination of, communication methods works best for you. Having a licensed therapist just a call, video chat, or text message away will provide you with a valuable tool in combating your anxiety and depression.
In addition to therapy, BetterHelp has a large selection of articles like this one to read from that cover numerous mental health topics. One of the most underrated ways to help any condition is to be educated about them and their treatment strategies. Understanding anxiety and depression and realizing that it is not a permanent state often provides relief in itself and can motivate others to seek out further help if it is needed. Read what others have to say about what they experienced when they reached out to one of our professional counselors.
"Thérèse truly listens and when I speak with her, I feel it's a very, very safe space. She is kind, understanding and pragmatic I couldn't recommend her enough. She also really knows how to uplift you and brighten your day I'm very grateful for having been matched with her."
"I have issues with extreme anxiety without having a history of it. Nerine has helped me by providing tools to decrease my anxiety and work through those symptoms. She also has helped me delve into exactly what started the anxiety and continues to walk me through, step by step, how to help myself. I'm so extremely grateful."
Learning how to manage depression and anxiety most effectively will take some work, but fortunately, you have options. Most of them are worth a try as they can be relevant to healthy living, in general.
These five anxiety and depression treatment methods are some of the most researched and, more than likely, you will see success by giving one, or a combination of them, a chance.
- Markowitz, J. C., & Weissman, M. (2004). Interpersonal psychotherapy: Principles and applications. World Psychiatry,3(3), 136-139. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1414693/.
- Anderson, E., & Shivakumar, G. (2013). Effects of Exercise and Physical Activity on Anxiety. Frontiers in Psychiatry,4. doi:10.3389/fpsyt.2013.00027
- Edenfield, T. M., & Saeed, S. A. (2012). An update on mindfulness meditation as a self-help treatment for anxiety and depression. Psychology Research and Behavior Management, 131. doi:10.2147/prbm.s34937
- Corliss, J. (2017, October 03). Mindfulness meditation may ease anxiety, mental stress. Retrieved June 6, 2019, from https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/mindfulness-meditation-may-ease-anxiety-mental-stress-201401086967
- Harvard Health Publishing. (2019, May 9). Yoga for anxiety and depression. Retrieved June 7, 2019, from https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/yoga-for-anxiety-and-depression
- Sanchez-Villegas, A., Henríquez, P., Bes-Rastrollo, M., & Doreste, J. (2006). Mediterranean diet and depression. Public Health Nutrition, 9(8A), 1104-1109. doi:10.1017/s1368980007668578
- Ballenger, J. C. (2000). Anxiety and Depression: Optimizing Treatments. Primary Care Companion to The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 2(3), 71-79. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC181112/.
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