Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Depression: More Than Being Down in the Dumps

How common is depression?

So common that it is thought of as the common cold of mental illnesses. However, this is not to understate the severity of depression which is one of the leading indicators of suicide. By some estimates depression costs the country a staggering $43 billion dollars a year in costs resulting from medicine, hospitalization, lost work days and reduced productivity. One in six of us will experience a major depressive episode in our lives and 15 million Americans are suffering from depression at any given time.

What causes depression?

There are a great many possible causes for depression. Frequently, depression is caused by an organic (chemical) or physiological cause. Possible organic causes include food allergies, heavy metals, prescription drugs, illicit drugs, alcohol, tobacco and caffeine. Depression can also be caused by preexisting physical conditions such as cancer, diabetes, chronic pain, hypoglycemia, hypothyroidism, and nutritional deficiencies.

How do you know if you have depression?

Depression can be broken into at least two categories major depression also called unipolar depression or mild depression, which is also referred to as dysthmia.

Major depression is determined by therapists to be present when a person has five of the following symptoms: Poor appetite accompanied by weight loss, or increased appetite accompanies by weight gain; insomnia or excessive sleep; hyperactivity; loss of interest or pleasure in usual activities or decrease in sexual drive; loss of energy including feelings of fatigue; feelings of worthlessness; reduction in one's ability to think or concentrate; recurrent thoughts of death or suicide.

Some symptoms of mild depression can be similar to those of major depression. Therapists will diagnose a person as having mild depression if at least three of the following symptoms for at least two years: low self-esteem or lack of self-confidence; pessimism; hopelessness or despair; lack of interest in ordinary pleasures and activities; withdrawal from social activities; fatigue or lethargy; guilt or ruminating about the past; irritability or excessive anger; lessened productivity; difficulty concentrating or making decisions.

How does western medicine treat depression?

A number of drugs have been developed by western medicine for the purpose of treating depression. These drugs include tricyclic antidepressants (Amoxapine, Amitriptyline, Trazodone and Mirtazapine), polycyclic antidepressants (Imiparamine, Desipramine or Protriptyline), or most commonly prescribed selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (Fluoxetine, Nefazodone, Sertraline or Parozetine). Other drugs such as Venlafaxine which increases serotonin and norepinephrine in the brain and Bupropion which increases catecholamine reuptake are also used for depression. Most drugs are prescribed to increase chemicals in the brain that are low in people who are depressed.

What are the natural remedies for depression?

Natural medicine practitioners frequently prescribe botanical medicines for depression. The best researched of the botanical medicine for treating depression is St. John's Wort. The studies done to date have shown that St. John's Wort is just as effective as anti-depressants for treating mild depression and that patients report greater satisfaction and fewer side effects then with anti-depressants. Ginkgo bilboa has also proven effective for treating depression in both human and animal studies. Exactly how Ginkgo bilboa works to treat depression is not known; however, the most likely reasons are that it impacts serotonin levels and that it is a powerful antioxidant.

Homeopathic medication that is frequently used for depression includes Anacardium, Arsenicum album, Aurum metallicum, Calcarea carbonica, Ignatia, Natrum muriaticum, Pulsatilla, Staphysagria, and Sulfur. The exact remedy is chosen by matching a person's individual symptoms with the remedy.

Counseling is frequently employed in the treatment of depression. Of the counseling techniques available, one of the most useful for treating depression is Cognitive therapy. In this type of counseling the counselor works with the patient to restructure the thought patterns of the individual. Important in treating depression are how the person thinks about such issues as failure, mistakes, and personal deficiencies.

Other natural therapies may treat hormonal imbalances including hypothyroidism, and adrenal functions. Treating these and other hormonal imbalances can clear up depression. More information on these conditions can be found on other pages of this site.

Can you prevent depression?

Self-care is highly important in warding off and preventing recurrence of depression. Important factors include diet, lifestyle and nutritional supplements.

Lifestyle changes may be in order.

People suffering from depression should decrease, or better yet discontinue, alcohol consumption as alcohol is a depressant drug. They should begin or increase exercise to increase levels of endorphins. And, they may want to discontinue or reduce intake of caffeine.

Diet changes should include an increase in fruits, vegetables, grains and raw nuts and seeds all of which are fiber-rich. Avoid any foods which are triggering allergies.

Some supplements to consider include folic acid and vitamin B12 (800 mg /day each) which are frequently deficient in people with depression; vitamin B6 (50 - 100 mg / day) which is essential for the brain to make serotonin, and omega-3 oils which are important in the composition of nerve cell membranes.

Natural medicine offers many ways to deal with the possible underlying organic and physiological conditions of depression. Consulting a healthcare professional is always recommended as they can assess your condition and create an individualized treatment plan.

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