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Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Vs. Medication for Depression

In the U.S., an estimated 17.3 million American adults, or 7.1% of the adult population, experienced at least one major depressive episode in 2017. Research suggests major depression may be vastly overdiagnosed and overtreated with antidepressants, and that a majority of those who take these drugs stay on them long-term, which may compromise their health. While may doctors are quick to prescribe antidepressants to patients struggling with depression, there are other options to help manage and treat depression. One such option: cognitive behavioral therapy.


Cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT, works by helping a patient reclaim control of their feelings toward stressful or depressive thoughts. Steps involved in CBT include identifying troubling situations in your life, becoming aware of your thoughts, emotions and beliefs about such problems, and identifying negative or inaccurate thinking.

When it comes to CBT versus medication, medication may seem like the easiest or most obvious choice for a patient struggling with depression. A recent meta-analysis even found that there are no statistically significant differences between the two in terms of initial efficiency or relapse rates. However, there are several clear benefits to CBT.

According to the meta-analysis, CBT for major depression is more cost effective than second-generation antidepressants in the long run. Researchers also found that the majority of patients — around 70% — prefer psychotherapy over medication for treatment of depression. They noted, however, that less than 25% actually receive psychotherapy.

Patients can also take advantage of CBT without the dangerous health risks associated with antidepressants. Studies show that antidepressants double the risk of harm from suicide and violence in healthy adults, and increase aggression two- to threefold in children and adolescents. Long-term use has also been associated with an increased rate of cardiovascular events.

Diet is a factor often overlooked by doctors treating patients with depression. Food can have an immense impact on your brain, and certain nutrient deficiencies are known to cause symptoms of depression. For more information on depression and natural treatment methods, check out this article.

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