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The Depression Cure: The 6-Step Program to Beat Depression without Drugs

4.11  ·  Rating details ·  1,664 ratings  ·  177 reviews
Most Americans work long hours, eat on the fly, and lead increasingly sedentary, isolated lives. Alongside this lifestyle, depression rates have skyrocketed: approximately 1 in 4 Americans will suffer from major depression at some point in their lives. Where have we gone wrong? Dr. Stephen Ilardi sheds light on our current predicament and reminds us: our bodies were never ...more
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published June 2nd 2009 by Da Capo Lifelong Books
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May 25, 2011 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Those suffering from mild to moderate depression or know someone who is
The Depression Cure offers six practical steps to fighting depression through Stephen S. Ilardi's program Therapeutic Lifestyle Change (TLC). The six components of TLC are:
- dietary omega-3 fatty acids
- engaging activity
- physical exercise
- sunlight exposure
- social support
- sleep

Most of the things above one can garner from common sense, which is why I relished reading The Depression Cure. As someone who suffers from mild depression every now and then I can say that exercise, getting enough slee
Oct 03, 2018 rated it it was ok
This book is really one big ad for buying fish oil.

It’s 6 common sense rules to getting over depression are:

1. Get 10-30 minutes of sunlight
2. Exercise
3. Social Support...aka make friends (easier said than done)
4. 7-8 hours of sleep
5. Positive thoughts
6. Omega 3 fish oil supplements

That’s pretty much it. I just saved you from reading this book.

You’re welcome.
Apr 05, 2013 rated it liked it
I didn't know what to expect from this book--and then it turned out to be a primal living/lifestyle book for depression (even if it doesn't quite state as much). I've been exploring other sides of primal lately, so tying self-help/anti-depressant factors to the overall concept just fits in. That said, it does make me consider that this book is just telling me what I want to hear/agree with anyway, and the ground it's covering isn't exactly unique.

I will complain that this book spends most of its
The Angry Lawn Gnome
That question, "What did you think?," that shows up at the top of each review. I had never given it much in the way of consideration until I read through this work. For the simple reason that I am unsure what to think about the work in its totality. But this sense only comes from averaging my feelings: I found certain passages sensible, certain parts worthy of further consideration, and certain sections grit-my-teeth stupid, patronizing, annoying, and written in a tone that only a True Believer ...more
Aug 10, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Have you suffered through depression? If your answer is 'yes', read this book and apply the strategies it suggests. I can't say they will cure you, but I can say they will only make your life better.

I started applying the strategies in this book back in late August, and the change I have experienced in the way I view life has been dramatic. I was bordering on suicidal despair. I am now loving life despite an empirically non-ideal situation, living with my parents and working a minimum wage job.
Dan Martinez
Oct 14, 2010 rated it really liked it
Despite its somewhat brazen title, this book’s body is thoughtful and reasonable, backed by detailed notes and a substantive bibliography.

It’s also not merely of interest to those grappling with depression: it has a number of eye-opening things to say about general self-care, particularly nutrition. (Executive summary: agricultural industrialization has had a number of interesting side effects: some obvious, some less so; some beneficial, some less so.) Ilardi isn’t the first to point these thin
Jul 14, 2011 rated it liked it
Over the last 10 years my daughter has suffered from depression. She has been to multiple doctors, outpatient programs including the infamous IOL (Institute of Living) and is no better than when it all began. So why not try the 6 steps this doctor offers in this book?
The 6 steps:
1. dietary omega-3 fatty acids
2. engaging activity
3. physical activity
4. sunlight exposure
5. social support
6. sleep

Russ Smith
Jul 19, 2012 rated it really liked it
Initial thoughts: Don't really like the table of contents, chapters aren't clearly indicated, it shows 'Parts" 1, 2, 3, etc. Then CHapters, but then also shows sections within those chapters, just too much info going on. I like a clean TOC.

Chapter 1. The epidemic and the cure. Good read. Introduces the idea that our ancient ancestors (hunter-gatherer types) didn't have as much depression because their lives had more of the basic needs of humans (fatty omega 3, sun light, exercise, etc. Chapter 1
Aug 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book is a miracle, and I cannot enthusiastically recommend it enough. As someone who has suffered from depression for my entire life, with varying degrees of severity, I have tried endless methods of treatment. Medication has worked and been a blessing to many who suffer from this debilitating disease, but it has never worked for me. I have tried many different medications on many different doses, and most have never brought even the slightest degree of relief. Years of trial-and-error expe ...more
Aug 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
Is there ground-breaking, new information here? No. However, Ilardi takes a look at things through the lens how how we used to live - hunger/gatherers. To me, this was a helpful approach as it shone a light on why some of these things make as big a difference as they do. And why depression has been climbing at alarming rates in the 20th and 21st centuries. Because our way of life is exponentially different, but there are things we can do to help combat the affects of those changes.

Do I buy into,
Feb 18, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Fantastic book for those who either suffer directly from depression or love someone who does - which probably covers most of us. Ilardi pulls together the latest research from several fields to create a very practical, common sense strategy for beating the often devastating effects of depression.
Emily Crow
Well, this is good advice, but I already do these things, and guess what...I'm still reading this book, so that should tell you. It did motivate me to be more consistent about taking omega three supplements. Overall, I thought Andrew Weil's Spontaneous Happiness was more informative. ...more
Tomi Kaukinen
Jan 08, 2021 rated it liked it
I’d give it a 3,5/5. It is a good book and maybe reading Hari’s brilliant Lost Connection just a couple of days before affected my take on this book. Some of the examples Ilardi uses seem to me like he is stating the obvious.

However, for anyone struggling with depression this is a good book indeed.
Christine Grabowski
Feb 11, 2021 rated it it was amazing
I listened to this book on audible. A great book about lifestyle choices a person can make to combat depression. Has tons of ideas of how a person can implement the 6 steps into their lives. Also includes lots of statistics to show lifestyle choices work better, especially in the long-term, than medicine and cognitive therapy. Of course these lifestyle changes can supplement other options as well. These activities can also keep depression at bay.
Oct 09, 2013 rated it really liked it
This book sounds promising... How effective is it? Time will tell.

I have a fair bit of faith in this book and the writer's claims. I have battled with my own black dog and become quite disillusioned with conventional therapy, but I also am not someone who has a lot of faith in airy-fairy new age therapy, either. I want to see things tested properly. I want to see proof that they work. There are a lot of snake oil merchants out there, particularly in mental health.

I was impressed with the rigorou
Apr 04, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: e

I've been suffering from mild mood swings for the last 4 years and I didn't do anything about them. It wasn't until 4 months ago when I was feeling so blue and was forced to see a psychiatrist. He diagnosed it with major depression episode and started me with anti-depressants ( prozac ), and I've been on them for a couple of month with no improvement so I started looking for other treatment options.

This book is written in a clear and reasonable way. Dr. Ilardi starts with a brief introduction o
Alona Perlin
Jul 03, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This book was fantastic. It really speaks about depression in a clear-cut way, so the reader has a true sense of the full meaning of depression. It breaks depression down to its core and talks about depression in a way that people can understand it, relate to it (for those persons that are depressed)and also conquer it. It sheds a new light and understanding on this insidious disease and also eliminates the stigma associated with it.

The only two complaints I have about this book is the efficacy
Joe Mama
Jul 13, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The book's major insight is that there is an epidemic of clinical depression because humans are poorly designed for modern life. In that sense, depression is an illness of lifestyle like obesity or diabetes. The writer doesn't blame people for getting depressed, but the book does empower them to combat the illness through simple changes in lifestyle. According to the author, many of these changes (things as simple as swallowing fish oil or going for brisk walks) can improve brain chemistry, ofte ...more
Aug 13, 2016 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2016, nonfiction, science
My problems with this book are not with the content. The content is great, if largely rooted in common sense. Every depressed person has been told that they can fix their depression with sunlight/kale/yoga/etc. My complaint with this book is actually largely with the formatting. Presumably to lead to a more seamless reading experience, the author doesn't do citations by number, but rather has them in the back of the book with the lead-in words to show what was cited. This sounds like a really pi ...more
Claire Caterer
While the title may seem like hype, this book offers a real, doable step-by-step program based on solid research to help those suffering from depression. Some things sound like common sense--get more exercise, increase your social interaction--but this program offers specific therapeutic recommendations as well as a way to chart your progress. Easy to read, great information. Highly recommended.
Jan 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing
If you struggle with depression, this book offers legitimate, tangible, and practical things you can do to fight off the blues. It focuses on how modern life contradicts how we evolved as humans, and what you can do to counteract these effects. The recommendations are easy things to do, and they are not just cognitive-behavioral things but rather distinct and practical changes you can make.
Nate Crawford
Dec 01, 2013 rated it liked it
He is a little too "neat" at times. Mental illness is a lot messier than he allows it at times. But, for a lot of people struggling with minor forms of depression (the clinical minor - no depression is minor), I'm sure this is a very good program. ...more
Graeme Cowan
Dec 12, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: depression
This book provides some good common sense approaches to beating depression and I believe the 6 steps offered are all very valid. I don't think it is helpful to say that the "no drug" approach is the best way because for some people medication is a very important part of recover. ...more
Jamie Lynn Lano
3 stars for great steps (all which I’ve read elsewhere and do believe in, except for the Omega-3 thing), but no more for constantly suggesting eating fish oil. It might help your depression, but I can’t support a book that advocates for killing animals.
Jul 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Easy read. Clear, specific instructions. Very practical advice. Would recommend these steps to anyone battling depression, whether they are taking medications or not.
Jan 03, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This modern lifestyle in which people in industrialized nations, particularly nations like the United States, live in has given prosperity and opportunity that has been so readily available than in anytime in human history, but at a huge cost: we are more prone to depression; humans weren't adapted to live in this fast-paced lifestyle. We were adapted to hunt, forage, run miles and miles, socialize with tight-knit communities, and soak in the Sun; our bodies, specifically the HPA-axis (our stres ...more
Sara Budarz
Dec 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: how-to-live, the-body
As someone who has been struggling intensely with depression these past few months, in the moments of having the strength to actually to anything, I've fallen back on what I always do best when faced with a new situation: research the crap out of it. And depression is no different: I want to understand it, understand my brain, understand how to combat it, understand how to accept it. And while there are a lot of books out there that give advice, as a researcher, I want books to have scientific v ...more
Jan 25, 2020 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dec 21, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
After reading the first chapter I found myself recognising the paragraphs. I had heard them before... but where?
Turns out I had watched the authors TEDtalk a week before. It was one of many desperate attempts to save my slowly depleting mood during this time around, and I'm happy that I managed to pick up this book to follow up on his advice.

I highly recommend to give his talk a watch. Ilardi does a great job in giving an engaging introduction to the books first few chapters plus a brief overlo
Destinee Sior
Feb 21, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I am a big fan of holistic psychiatry. I am not anti-medication by any means, but I do strongly believe that recovering from a mental illness takes more than medication. After all, medication is not successful all of the time and it does come with its share of side effects. Making a therapeutic lifestyle change, as referenced in the book, is the option that makes sense in order for someone to start healing and remain recovered. Also, to have the skills when/if it ever returns.

Illardi shares his
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Stephen Ilardi received his Ph.D. in clinical psychology from Duke University, and has spent the past two decades as an active researcher, university professor, and clinician. He has treated several hundred patients suffering from depressive illness and other serious disorders, and has authored over 40 scholarly articles and papers on mental illness.

Over the past six years, Dr. Ilardi and his cli

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26 likes · 4 comments
“Watching television is another high-risk situation. This might seem counterintuitive, since people often look to TV as an escape—something to take their mind off things. But here’s the problem: Most programs are simply not interesting or engaging enough to fully occupy the mind, so it’s all too easy for our thoughts to wander off when we’re sitting in front of the tube. Add to this the fact that depression impairs our ability to concentrate—including the ability to stay focused on a TV program—and it’s no surprise that watching television is often a recipe for disaster. It’s one of the most effective ways to usher in an extended bout of rumination.” 2 likes
“I believe many of us now live as if we value things more than people. In America, we spend more time than ever at work, and we earn more money than any generation in history, but we spend less and less time with our loved ones as a result. Likewise, many of us barely think twice about severing close ties with friends and family to move halfway across the country in pursuit of career advancement. We buy exorbitant houses—the square footage of the average American home has more than doubled in the past generation—but increasingly we use them only to retreat from the world. And even within the home-as-refuge, sealed off from the broader community “out there,” each member of the household can often be found sitting alone in front of his or her own private screen—exchanging time with loved ones for time with a bright, shiny object instead. Now, I’m not saying that any of us—if asked—would claim to value things more than people. Nor would we say that our loved ones aren’t important to us. Of course they are. But many people now live as if achievement, career advancement, money, material possessions, entertainment, and status matter more. Unfortunately, such things don’t confer lasting happiness, nor do they protect us from depression. Loved ones do.” 2 likes
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