High Use of Alternative Therapies in Mental Health Care

People with mental health problems often use alternative therapies.

Posted Aug 01, 2017

Persons diagnosed with a major psychiatric disorder are significantly more likely to use complementary and alternative (CAM) treatments than the general population, and the majority of people who use CAM to self-treat a mental health problem take prescription medications concurrently.

Almost one-half of persons diagnosed with major depressive disorder or panic disorder use at least one CAM treatment—including herbals, other natural products, mind-body therapies and energy therapies—compared to less than one-third of the general adult population. Roughly two-thirds of severely depressed or anxious persons who use CAM therapies consult with a mental health professional and 90 percent of the time this is a psychiatrist.

More than one-half of persons who self-treat severe depression or anxiety using CAM therapies such as herbals or other natural products while taking a medication believe that CAM treatments and medications are equally efficacious.

Although many CAM therapies are safe and effective, some are not. This becomes a potential problem because it turns out that the majority of persons who use CAM therapies for a mental health problem do tell their mental health care provider. This is an alarming trend in view of potentially serious safety problems that can result when combining certain herbals or other natural products with medications. 

To learn about the evidence of alternative therapies for mental health problems check out the author's series of 10 e-books on integrative mental health.


The Integrative Mental Health Solution, a series of 10 e-books on complementary and alternative treatments of mental health problems, J. Lake, 2015.