Depression. According to NAMI (the National Alliance on Mental Illness) nearly 1 in 5 adults suffer from some form of mental illness in any given year. Many of those who suffer go untreated due to not being diagnosed.
Is it sadness or depression?
Everybody falls into a rut now and then – feeling sad and listless for a day or a few days, then feeling better again. This is sometimes called “the blues” and is normal. For some people, however, that sadness doesn’t lift on its own. There’s no light at the end of the tunnel. That is called “clinical depression” and it can be very serious.
Clinical depression can be caused by several things:
- a chemical imbalance in the brain
- life events
- medical problems
- or genetics
Post-partum depression is caused by the hormonal changes due to pregnancy and Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). SAD occurs in the winter and happens when the days become shorter and you are exposed to less sunlight. Sunlight helps your body produce higher levels of serotonin – the “feel good” chemical in your brain that that is key in influencing your mood. More often than not, it is a combination of several of these things.
Signs of Clinical Depression
Clinical depression is characterized by bouts of debilitating sadness, hopelessness and despair lasting two weeks or more. It is severe enough to interfere with your daily living. Someone who is clinically depressed will also exhibit some or all of the following behaviors:
- sleep too much
- miss work because they can’t get out of bed
- stop showering and caring for themselves
- let the house get messy and not care
- cry for no apparent reason
- stop eating or eat too much
- misuse drugs or alcohol to numb their feelings
- have persistent thoughts of death or suicide
A person doesn’t have to experience every symptom. Sometimes just a few of them can be just as debilitating. It’s important that it be diagnosed. The earlier treatment starts, the more effective it can be.
Depression Can Be Treated
It is important to remember that depression can be treated. A physician can recommend a course of treatment depending on what type of depression you have.
Treatment can include:
- antidepressant medication
- electroshock therapy (ECT) – normally used in more severe cases
The antidepressant medications, while quite effective, can cause side effects like nausea, drowsiness or sexual side effects. To be sure, though, the dangers of untreated depression far outweigh these side effects.
For those who prefer a more holistic lifestyle, there are natural remedies. Simple lifestyle changes, alternative medicine and natural dietary supplements have been used to successfully treat depression. Some of the most promising alternatives are:
- Exercise gets your blood flowing, relieves stress and makes you feel healthier. It also causes an increase of endorphins in your body, giving you the “natural high” you hear about.
- Get more exposure to the sun by taking walks or sitting out for a while on sunny days.
- Acupuncture has been shown to effectively decrease the severity of depression, plus it can treat a whole slew of other maladies making you feel better than ever.
- Eat a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids (salmon, tuna, flax seed, fish oil, broccoli…) to increase brain function and decrease depression.
- Try herbal supplements with your doctor’s consent.
- St. John’s Wort (300-600 mg daily)
- SAMe (200-600 mg daily)
- Valerian Root (400-900 mg at bedtime)
Numerous other natural dietary aids have been proven to be as effective – if not more effective – than prescription antidepressants.
Whatever brings it on, depression hurts. It affects your mind and body and it affects all aspects of your life. You don’t have to live with it. There is a treatment that is right for you! If you believe you’re depressed, see your doctor today.