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Depression and low mood (young people)

Complementary approaches

A few of the young people we spoke with had tried various complementary approaches or therapies to help them with depression. Among these approaches were reflexology, homeopathy, acupuncture, Trauma Healing and Bodywork therapy. They had also tried various relaxation techniques, yoga and different kinds of massage.

Mostly, young people recounted positive physical and psychological benefits of these approaches. They described how complementary approaches helped them to relax and helped reduce stress. One man said he’d learnt useful breathing techniques to combat anxiety. One woman described the benefits of complementary approaches as “a release”, helping the “pain to subside” and being better able to “process feelings”.

 
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Jo describes how the body, mind and memory are all connected, which is the principle behind the...

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Age at interview: 25
Sex: Female
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Like sometimes it’s funny how there’s sometimes the body just remembers, and yeah like it happened like in relationships when somebody would hold me a certain way… Like certain memories are triggered and you don’t really have them in your consciousness but like that’s why I’m trying like this bodywork stuff because I have realised that my body sometimes remembers things that, like they will immediately go to my emotions, and yeah. Basically that’s yeah.
 

Jo’s GP back in Germany recommended Somatic Experiencing therapy for her which can help people...

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Age at interview: 25
Sex: Female
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My GP back in Germany recommended back then was Somatic Experiencing. And it’s very widely used in the States and I’ve read that there’s the book by the guy who did it, Peter Levine, and it basically, as far as I understand it, it’s when you have like a trauma your body will, like you have three sides of your brain and that’s like instinct and emotions and rationality, and they kind of, and sometimes they will block each other rather than kind of complement each other. And so when you will have a traumatic incidence and that can be something that seems really benign like a medical procedure for children, where like a classic thing will be they would get really scared but because like the doctors would just want to get on with their work they would fixate them and like put them in anaesthesia and when you go under anaesthesia in terror you will wake up in terror.
 
And that can become, and you can’t escape so that can become a trauma. And then will be like a kind of like a negative energy in your body because your body builds up energy when you are in a fearful situation ‘cos you want to defend yourself and when you can’t release that energy it’s just stuck and that can turn into like yeah, anxiety attacks, depression, rage, helplessness, hyper-vigilance, all that kind of stuff.
 
And you kind of, and as far as I understood, understand it, I’m not a practitioner at all, you kind of yeah, it makes you reconnect with yourself and kind of let, because his approach is that you, your body, or your organism can heal itself, if you allow it to. So if you kind of manage to reconnect with your organism and manage to reconnect with yeah, your sense of self, you if you can release this energy and you can learn how to turn, to allow your organism to heal itself.
 
And once you’ve reached that, I mean it’s a process, and like you don’t just do it once and then be tadaa “Oh you’re healed,” but apparently that will enable you to get, grow stronger.
 

Jo describes how “EMDR” works and how it’s helped her process “stuck up grief”.

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Age at interview: 25
Sex: Female
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My therapist is kind of very proactive, and I’m doing EMDR which is kind of like this sensors and like they send off, like they’re trying to stimulate like the two sides of your brain and you associate with things and its,
 
So what does that mean?
 
It means that you sit down and, you get these, like I get these two things on my head and they vibrate and it’s like because when you touch, I think when you touch the, your left side like on your left shoulder, your right brain, like the right side of your brain will respond when you touch the right side the other side will respond.
 
So in that way you stimulate both sides of your brain, and you kind of go on free association, so you will just kind of think about like a certain place that you were at, or like a certain emotions that you were, were having and I also tried to like while I’m doing that, like I for myself and like my therapist is encouraging that, like and focus on how my body responded. So like for me for instance I would, I guess it’s like you know I was like stuck up grief, or like it would be a grief that I didn’t let out for instance like I will, I’ll talk about certain things and I hit like a certain spot that is very vulnerable I would get like a pain in my throat.
 
And I can literally feel something coming up and hitting that spot and going down again. And then I, and then I’ll start feeling more detached again and as I feel more detached again and kind of feeling more defensive the pain will subside, which for me means there’s still like a lot of stuff there that I for some reason I am afraid to kind of face or let out whatever.
 

Loz describes his experience of a complementary therapy session working on his aura. He was ...

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Age at interview: 17
Sex: Male
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It did feel weird. It was, he chatted all about that sort of aura thing, sort of like you touch going like all the way down here, and it did feel like sort of a weird sort of sensation as he went down your body and it was, and he’d sort of like, just it was like sort of like just a couple of centimetres and he’d go down the arms and sort of do the legs sort of thing, go up the foot and all that sort of stuff and he do the, catch the energy and whatever it was they did.

 

Yeah, I felt sort of really quite sleepy and I’d be like, huh, this is good. But it really, it really did feel really quite interesting, and I was quite taken aback about how much it sort of like worked I mean. I’d sort of recommend it to people who sort of believed in that stuff ‘cos I was quite sceptical about it, like my Dad. My Dad doesn’t believe in anything. It’s like ghosts. There’s the people with sheets and they go Whoo. So he, he didn’t really sort of believe in that, but I, I’m sort of, with persuasion I’m, I’m I can be into that. If they can prove, yea if, it helps.

Young people felt that some of the complementary approaches helped them to relax and calm down and hence help them cope with feelings of anxiety or depression. A couple of women had found yoga particularly helpful in easing stress'

“I sometimes do yoga with my psychotherapist ‘cos she knows a lot about yoga, I think she teaches it or something. Which I really must get into more ‘cos I think it will really help. I did yoga years ago and I found it really relaxing.”
 
A few young people were keen to try different complementary therapies, such as hypnotherapy, but said they couldn’t afford them. Some doctors advise that people with depression do not go for hypnotherapy until they are already well on the way to recovery and simply want to use it to help with stress.
 

Tasha is saving money for a hypnotherapy session as “a treat” to help her relax.

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Age at interview: 18
Sex: Female
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I had an Indian head massage. I didn’t have anything regularly but I’m looking into hypnotherapy at the moment. Because I have a friend who has it for anxiety and she said it was, it really helps but it’s really expensive. So, I’m waiting for my birthday, having some birthday money and then I can have, have a session and see if it’s for me. But they, I think they really help relax you, and calm you down but I don’t know whether they’re a good, what I’ve had I don’t know whether if having that would treat, treat what I’m feeling. It just, it’s just like a short term thing, a treat.

A couple of people were more sceptical about the benefits of or the evidence for complementary approaches. One man said he’d been very sceptical in the beginning but that he had found reflexology quite helpful. Another felt the only benefit of these approaches was their “placebo effect” and said they were just “a waste of money”.

 

Edward says complementary therapies are “a waste of money” and the limited funding in mental...

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Age at interview: 18
Sex: Male
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We love our complementary therapies ‘cos they make us feel good, the whole placebo effect, but they’re a waste of money to be honest. There’s no such thing as alternative medicine, there’s either medicine that works or it doesn’t work. With mental health you know it’s really important we weed out the bad types of counselling which don’t have a proper effect, we only have so much money to spend on mental health, that’s a fact. We want to spend it on stuff that works really, not stuff that doesn’t work. And I think really we do need to start bringing in more science to the field of mental health.

Last reviewed June 2017.

Last updated January 2012.

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