Treatment for depression: Letting the light back in
Imagine a world where everything is black and dreary, where you constantly feel overwhelming sadness and hopelessness. Depression will affect 20% of all Australians, and is believed to be our fourth most common illness. However, if the treatment for depression is not effective, many people repeatedly suffer the effects over and over again for years, or even most of their life. As with any health condition, to get good results you have to identify what is causing the problem.
Signs and Symptoms of Depression
Depression affects individuals differently, however some of the more common signs and symptoms are:
- Not going out anymore
- Withdrawing from family and friends
- Not doing usual enjoyable activities
- Not getting things done at home/work/school
- Relying on alcohol or other substances
- Unable to concentrate
- Lacking in confidence
- “I’m a failure.”
- “Nothing good ever happens to me.”
- “It’s my fault.”
- “I’m worthless.”
- “Life is not worth living.”
- “People would be better off without me.”
- Sick and run down
- Headaches and muscle pains
- Tired all the time
- Sleep problems
- Upset stomach
- Loss or change of appetite
- Significant weight loss or gain
It is important to remember that these symptoms are a normal part of life’s lows, however the more symptoms you have and the longer they have lasted, the more likely it is that you are dealing with depression. Brisbane based CNTC believe that it is best to seek help before the symptoms become overwhelming and disabling.
Psychological Causes of Depression
Long-term difficulties are more likely to cause depression, however if you have had significant bad experiences in your past, you may become depressed more easily. As a Brisbane clinic treating depresssion we often find experiences that include relationship difficulties, long-term stress at work, prolonged isolation or loneliness, and long-term unemployment as contributing causes. Then, if life starts becoming difficult (e.g. loss of job, illness, or relationship breakdown), depression may develop. Personal factors, including your family history, personality, serious illness, or substance use, can also contribute to depression. Everyone is different, but usually there is a combination of factors involved. It is important to recognise the signs and symptoms, and seek help to minimise the impact on your health and wellbeing.
Possible Physical Causes of Depression
One school of thought is that depression is due to a chemical imbalance in the brain, usually triggered by physical or emotional trauma. However, sometimes there are a number of factors in the body which can also cause depression or make it worse.
- Poor circulation to the brain is one of the more common conditions found in people suffering from depression. The cells of the body are like small plants – if you give them plenty of water and nutrients they thrive and do well. If the blood has been sluggish getting to your brain, it will have lost much of its oxygen and nutrients, and be full of wastes by the time it reaches your cells. The cells will suffer, and if they ‘feel yuk’, then it is natural that you will mentally feel poorly as well. People with this condition will often feel that problems are bigger than they are. (This can be diagnosed is by an experienced acupuncturist feeling a spot at the very top of the head. If it feels puffy or tender, it means the blood flow in the head is sluggish.)
- Deep-seated fatigue is another common cause. It can develop gradually from adrenal fatigue, or suddenly such as in post-natal depression. Adrenal fatigue has 3 main causes:
- Any shock or trauma, shock, or fright that stimulates a release of adrenaline in the body. Sometimes, after this event has passed the body continues to produce excess adrenaline, and becomes internally burnt out.
- A prolonged period of stress (including a job you dislike, a bad relationship, or even a long illness)
- Overwork, or not getting enough rest and recovery or sleep
- Thyroid imbalance – both an overactive and underactive thyroid can result in depression. (In some people, thyroid symptoms such as low energy, putting on weight easily, and depression or anxiety can occur if their blood test results are towards the lower end of the normal thyroid range. So even if you have had a blood test and been told that your thyroid is fine, it is best to let us see the results or have your thyroid checked by ourselves. Most natural therapists take a more conservative approach, and if your levels are in the lower part of the range, we want to improve them before you have to go on medication for the rest of your life.)
- Tailbone injury can occasionally cause symptoms of depression, restlessness, or unstable feelings. The exact mechanism for this is unknown, but may be due to a strain on the spinal cord up to the brain.
- Medication – some medications can have depression as a possible side-effect (including anti-depressants!)
- Lack of sunlight can cause a type of depression known as Seasonal Affected Disorder.
- Lack of important nutrients – what is not well-known is that each persons need for various nutrients is different. Some people may need higher than usual levels of some nutrients to allow their bodies and minds to work correctly.
- Omega-3 fatty acids are a type of good fat needed for normal brain function. Our bodies can’t make omega-3s on their own, so we must obtain them through our diet or supplements. Various studies have linked depression with low dietary intake of omega-3 fatty acids, and in countries with higher fish consumption, such as Japan and Taiwan, the depression rate is 10 times lower than in countries such as the USA. Post- natal depression is also less common.
- Tryptophan and Tyrosine – these are essential amino acids, and are needed for various functions in the body. This includes the production of the neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine, which are important chemicals for brain function. When depression is said to be caused by a chemical imbalance, this usually refers to a lack of serotonin or dopamine, or both. Tryptophan and Tyrosine must be obtained through your diet or from supplements. Good food sources include soy protein, meats, cheese, legumes, nuts and seeds, spirulina, eggs, wheat, and oats.
- 5-HTP and SAM-e – 5-HTP (5-hydroxytryptophan) is also needed by your body to make serotonin, and SAM-e (S-adenosyl-L-methionine) is a natural chemical that increases the levels of serotonin and dopamine in your body, helping to elevate your mood. (Do not use either product if you already take antidepressants.)
- Vitamin B6, Magnesium and Zinc – these nutrients are used by the body when converting tryptophan and tyrosine to serotonin and dopamine. Greater amounts are used during times of stress and illness, which can cause deficiencies. Studies have found that people suffering from depression often have low levels of these essential vitamins and minerals.
- Folic Acid, also called folate, is a B vitamin that is often deficient in people who are depressed. It is one of the most common vitamin deficiencies because of poor diet, but also because chronic conditions and various medications such as aspirin and birth control pills can also lead to a deficiency. Researchers at Harvard University have found that depressed people with low folate levels don’t respond as well to anti-depressants, and taking folic acid in a supplement form can improve the effectiveness of antidepressants.
Natural Treatment for Depression
If you are feeling down for an extended period of time, it is important to seek professional help. If diagnosed by a medical doctor with depression, you may like to complement their recommended treatment with any of the natural healing alternatives available to you.
Depression and Psychology: A psychologist uses a number of discussion techniques to help the person resolve their feelings and understand how they came to be depressed in the first place. The client is encouraged to analyse their own patterns and behaviour. A good psychologist will give their patient hope, and increase feelings of self-esteem and awareness. If the client is referred by a doctor, the psychologist will liaise with their doctor to ensure the best care for the client. For chronic conditions, a doctor may authorise some psychology sessions to be covered by Medicare.
Depression and Naturopathy: Those with depression are often found deficient in many essential vitamins, minerals and other nutrients. These individuals are also likely to have irregular eating patterns and an affected appetite, making a good diet all the more important. By improving the chemistry of the brain, our Brisbane naturopathy practitioners can often make a major difference to a person’s mental and emotional wellbeing.
Depression and massage: Massage therapy is one of the oldest treatments in the book when it comes to treating depression. It does so by relieving physical and emotional stress in the body, leaving the person feeling healthier and more confident in their ability to cope.
Depression and Acupuncture: Acupuncture can help with depression that is related to chronic pain by managing the underlying pain.
Mental Health Week raises community awareness about mental health issues, and is held in Brisbane in October each year to coincide with World Mental Health Day on 10 October. In 2013, Queensland’s Mental Health Week will be held from Sunday 6 to Sunday 13 October.
TREATMENT FOR DEPRESSION BRISBANE
If you are interested in finding out about possible treatments for depression, anxiety, stress or any other mental health condition, please contact our Brisbane Clinic on 3376 6911, and ask for a free Comprehensive Health Assessment. We can then see what factors are involved in your condition, and recommend which therapy would be most effective for you.