Psychiatrist and leading mind-body expert Dr. James Gordon says depression is not a disease, but a wake-up call. "It's a beginning—a signal that it's time to begin a journey toward restoring balance and health and wholeness," he says. "The fundamental issue is how you are going to approach that imbalance."
Dr. Gordon, author of Unstuck: Your Guide to the Seven-Stage Journey Out of Depression, talks with Dr. Oz and his wife, Lisa, and Dr. Michael Roizen about how to treat depression by using alternative methods.
Instead of offering patients antidepressant drugs first, Dr. Gordon says doctors should help their patients make psychological, social, spiritual and physiological changes, such as changing diet, exercise and the way you look at the world. "If you don't deal with [your emotions], you're likely to be stuck with [them]," he says. "If you just give people pills, they're never going to deal with the underlying issues."
In Unstuck, Dr. Gordon outlines his seven-step journey to treating depression.
1. The call. The first step is to become aware of your depression. Many people go through life and don't really know what's going on, Dr. Gordon says. He advises people to start by asking themselves, "What's going on?" He also says to take The Center for Epidemiological Studies-Depression test (CES-D) developed by the National Institute of Mental Health. This series of questions will help you focus not only on whether you're depressed, but on what some of the issues of your depression are.
2. Look for guides. Look for people who can help you, Dr. Gordon says. In terms of a professional guide, be very clear about what kind of therapist you want. "It's a process that I think is worth investing time, energy and money in because it will save you so much down the road," he says.
3. Surrendering to change. In this stage, it's critically important to begin to move. "Physical exercise, with the exception of talking with another sympathetic, intelligent, trained human being, is the single best treatment for depression," Dr. Gordon says.
4. Dealing with demons. All of us deal with demons, such as procrastination, guilt, shame and loneliness. Rather than trying to suppress them, try to talk out the problem.
5. The dark night of the soul. Dr. Gordon says this is the time when we're in despair, when nothing seems to work. "It's important to acknowledge that these times exist. We're a society that's made very nervous by despair," he says. "Suicide, particularly among young people, is increasing. We have to acknowledge that one in five young people have thought seriously about killing themselves, and one in 10 has made an attempt."
6. Spirituality. It is as native to us as the air we breathe, Dr. Gordon says, and we sometimes forget about it. For him, spirituality simply means a connection to something that's greater than us, something that gives our lives meaning and purpose. "This chapter really helps put people back in touch with the possibilities of love, the benefits of prayer and the importance of forgiveness," he says.
7. The return. "As you move on this journey through and beyond depression, it's not necessarily that where you are changes, but even more importantly, the way you look at and experience where you are and what you do changes," he says.