Many people confuse melancholia with depression. Melancholia takes the form of being down and feeling de-motivated or experiencing that "blah" kind of feeling. But as long as these feelings dissipate after a few days and don't cripple your lifestyle, this melancholia is perfectly normal. So the keyword here is "duration." Many people sing the blues on certain days of the month. That doesn't mean they're depressed.
Depression, on the other hand, is worlds away from melancholia. Depression is a persistent feeling that can linger for two to three years if not treated. When depression is severe, your doctor will most likely want to prescribe medication.
Signs of Depression
How do you know if you're depressed? One common symptom of depression is constant crying for no reason at all. The feeling is one of helplessness; the feeling that life isn't worth living. A more serious sign of depression are suicidal thoughts.
Other symptoms of depression are:
- Thoughts that are sad or negative and won't go away
- Desire to end one's life
- Sleeplessness (some depressed persons sleep too much or stay in bed all day)
- Abandonment of activities that once were a source of joy and pleasure (this loss of interest is long-term)
- Lack of interest to nurture or maintain social relationships
- Loss of appetite
- Problems concentrating or performing mental and physical tasks
- Uncontrolled sobbing
Causes of Depression
A number of factors or life situations can cause or trigger depression. Sometimes, a chemical imbalance in the brain could make someone depressed in which case the doctor will prescribe medication that will balance the brain's chemical and electrical activities.
Other causes of depression include:
- Personal or professional problems that overwhelm a person making that person unable to cope or to seek solutions (for example, marital discord or employer-employee issues, being bypassed for a promotion)
- Financial situation - this becomes even more pronounced during economic downturns where downsizing and layoffs are the norm rather than the exception;
- Loss of job
- Death or divorce
- Lack of success
- Being a victim of financial fraud that wipes out lifetime savings
There may be other causes which aren't purely circumstantial in nature. Sometimes, people who have a low opinion of themselves or are overly critical are vulnerable to feelings of depression. People who have an abnormal amount of responsibility or who take in extraordinary workload and can't say no tend to be susceptible to depression. People with little or no support systems also tend to be depressed because the lack of friends and family forces them to cope on their own, thus adding to their mental burden.
People with a family history of depression or suicide could also be depressed but it certainly doesn't mean just because one has a parent who was diagnosed with depression that he or she will automatically be diagnosed with depression.
For women, the empty nest syndrome or the menopausal stage can provoke feelings of depression. For men, it could be the realization that their sex drive has diminished or that they're no longer needed in the work force.
Yet another cause could be side effects from specific medications one is taking for specific conditions, which aren't necessarily related to depression itself.
Depression can be Treated Naturally
People who take medication for depression sometimes complain that their medication causes other health problems to develop and so tend to favor natural remedies.
Fortunately for us and our loved ones, depression can be treated using alternative medicine. Natural treatments in the form of dietary supplements are available in the market today.
If you are taking prescription medication, speak to your doctor about the possibility of substituting your medicine with more natural treatments. Only your doctor can make that decision. Depending on the severity of your depression, he may agree to complement your medical protocol with natural supplements.
When looking for natural supplements, look for homeopathic formulas that are developed in the USA. While dietary supplements are not regulated by the FDA, the manufacturers who market these supplements are subject to strict laboratory requirements. You may also want to look for supplements that will boost serotonin levels and provide you with extra energy.