Could we at least partly replace the intake of psychotropics by therapies such as yoga?

What do I like about yoga? First of all I love practising yoga myself, and by this, trying to cure all my aches and worries:-). But additionally, I’m also interested in learning about how to treat people with yoga who suffer from different deseases. I think the yoga therapy course would be something for later on…

Quite a long time ago, I studied clinical psychology and neuropsychology and got to know a lot about mental disorders and brain injuries and their treatments. I learned that psychotherapy is an important part of the treatment. But the first and main longterm treatment seems to be the intake of psychotropic medication. There is a lot of money and research put into finding more specific substances to treat different disorders with as little side effects as possible. But sadly, not only diagnosed mental disorders are treated with psychotropics. There seems to be a trend to treat also healthy people with these substances. It’s so easy to enhance your brain power by stimulants, to treat discontent or any worries caused by daily hassles with antidepressants or anxiolytics, to make your children sit down and study concentrated by giving them stimulants, or to fall asleep after a stressful day by taking a sedative. For a short time, you can easily cure any ill-feeling. A treatment that even doesn’t take time or need an effort.

But isn’t it important to learn how to handle all these ill-feelings yourself? Isn’t it important to know that you can handle difficult situations without any external chemical help? I think it is! If you rely on substances in every difficult situation you will completely lose your feeling of self efficacy. Self efficacy is defined as the extent or strength of one’s belief in one’s own ability to complete tasks and reach goals. People with a low feeling of self-efficacy tend to experience more self-doubt and anxiety. They see tasks or difficult situations as threatening and are less able to cope with stressful situations. So, the intake of psychotropics can become a vicious circle: you are stressed because of a demanding task, you treat the stress with psychotropics, you lose your feeling of self-efficacy, and next time the same situation appears even less managable to you.

In addition to this, nobody exactly knows about the long-term effect of psychotropics such as antidepressants. The brain is highly adaptive. If you chemically change your brain function by antidepressants over a long time, there will be a habituation effect. This may lead to an increase of the symptoms when you don’t take the substance anymore, or a need to increase the dose of the substance to prevent the symptoms.

I think it would be important to treat ill-feelings, overcome daily hassles, or even treat mild mental disorders as often as possible by learning new behaviors and new ways of thinking and by trying to enhance our self-efficacy. In addition to classical psychotherapy, yoga therapy could be a perfect treatment. Probably, there needs to be more research about the benefits of yoga to establish this treatment. But you can already find studies proving its benefits in the treatment of stress and different mental disorders.