There is growing scientific evidence about complementary and alternative treatments.
Complementary medicine is used along with conventional medicine. An example is in-home treatment to help modify symptoms of panic attacks. Alternative medicine is used in place of conventional medicine, such as following a special diet to treat cancer instead of undergoing surgery, radiation, or chemotherapy recommended by a medical doctor.
Treating Anxiety Disorders and Depression
The following complementary and alternative practices are currently used to treat anxiety and depressive disorders:
- Stress and Relaxation Techniques
Relaxation techniques may produce modest short-term reduction of anxiety in people with heart disease, inflammatory bowel disease, or other ongoing health problems, and in those who are having breast biopsies, dental treatment, or other medical procedures. These techniques have also been shown to be useful for older adults with anxiety. In people with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), studies indicate that cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is more effective over the long term than relaxation techniques. For symptoms of depression they may have modest benefit, but they are not as effective as CBT or other psychological treatment. Find out more.
Moderate evidence suggests that meditation is useful for symptoms of anxiety and depression in adults. Learn more.
Yoga, which combines physical postures, breathing exercises, meditation, and a distinct philosophy, is one of the top ten practices of CAM (complementary and alternative medicine). Studies suggest that practicing yoga (as well as other forms of regular exercise) might confer health benefits such as reducing heart rate and blood pressure, and it may also help alleviate anxiety and depression.
Evidence for the use of acupuncture — the Chinese practice of inserting needles into the body at specific points to manipulates the body's flow of energy — to treat anxiety disorders is becoming stronger.
A plant found in the South Pacific, kava has been prescribed in tablet form for treating anxiety and improving mood. Although scientific studies provide some evidence that kava may be beneficial for managing anxiety, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a warning that kava supplements have been linked to a risk of severe liver damage. In 2010 a doctor at Saint Louis University found no evidence that kava extract and other natural treatments were effective in fighting the symptoms of anxiety disorder.
Treating Depression: Some people turn to complementary health products and practices for depression, although no complementary approach has proved effective over the long term. Read more about depression and the science behind complementary health practices, including side effects and cautions.
Find Out More
Visit "What Is Complementary and Alternative Medicine?" to learn about the great variety of complementary and alternative treatments. Below are other practices to consider.
- Homeopathic or naturopathic medicine
- St. John’s Wort and Depression: What the Science Says
- Massage therapy
- Art, music, or dance therapy
- Dietary supplements or herbal products
- Meditation, prayer, or pastoral counseling, including mindfulness
- Biofield therapies or bioelectromagnetic-based therapies
- Fibromyalgia and CAM