Depression leads to feelings of intense sadness that can persist for long periods of time. This is different from temporary unhappiness or discontent that most people experience occasionally. Individuals who are depressed may find it difficult to even perform daily activities. Depression is a common illness and affects a large number of people. Studies indicate that women are more prone to depression than men. Studies have also shown that men are more likely to commit suicide due to depression. This is probably because men tend to avoid seeking help for the illness. Other circumstances such as drug abuse or unemployment could also be the cause. Even children can suffer from depression. Depression may have a genetic link and those with a family history of the illness may be at a higher risk. Depression may be manifested in various mental, physical and social symptoms. It is a treatable condition and most people experience complete recovery with the appropriate medical attention and support. Therefore it is important to seek help from your doctor if you feel you may be experiencing depression.
Symptoms of Depression
Depression results in many complex symptoms. Most depressed individuals start to lose interest in activities they earlier enjoyed. Depressive feelings may also disrupt work and social life. The symptoms of depression may be classified as psychological, physical and social.
The psychological symptoms of depression include the following:
- Persistent sadness
- Low self-esteem
- Feelings of guilt
- Anxiety or worry
- No motivation or interest in activities
- Inability to make decisions
- Low sex drive
- Suicidal thoughts
The physical symptoms of depression include the following:
- Increase or decrease in appetite
- Weight gain or weight loss
- Sluggish movements
- Low energy levels
- Disturbances in the menstrual cycle
- Excessive sleepiness or poor sleep
The social symptoms of depression include the following:
- Lack of interest in hobbies
- Problems in family life
- Poor performance at the workplace
- Avoidance of social situations
The symptoms of depression may develop gradually and it often takes a while to recognize them. Many people may not even realize they suffer from depression. Depression can vary in severity. Milder symptoms may affect daily life to a small extent while moderate symptoms may considerably influence daily life. Individuals who are severely depressed may be unable to perform routine activities and some may even experience psychotic symptoms.
In many instances, the difference between grief and depression is unclear. Grief occurs when you suffer a great loss. These feelings may occur on and off, but are never severe enough to hamper daily life. Depression, on the other hand, can cause an individual to feel constantly sad and uninterested in life, often without any apparent reason.
Causes for Depression
No single factor is responsible for depression. There are various triggers and different people suffer from depression due to different reasons. In many cases a combination of factors is responsible. Some studies indicate that the likelihood of depression increases with age. The illness is also more common in individuals who live in difficult economic or social conditions. Here are some the most common triggers of depression:
- Social isolation is a common trigger of depression. People who are cut off from others may experience loneliness and sadness. On the other hand, some people may isolate themselves from others due to their depressive feelings.
- Substance abuse often amplifies depressive feelings. Abuse of substances such as drugs or alcohol can make people feel worse about themselves, thus causing them to use drugs or alcohol even more.
- Stressful life events such as the death of a loved one, loss of a job or breakdown in a personal relationship are common triggers for depression. Such circumstances can cause an individual to retreat further, increasing social isolation.
- A serious life threatening ailment or a chronic illness can make an individual more susceptible to depression. Such conditions include cancer or heart disease. In some cases, injuries to the head may be the cause of mood changes. If the injury damages the pituitary gland, hormonal imbalances can occur and this can result in emotional problems.
- Certain genes may predispose a person to developing depression and the condition is often seen to run in families.
- Post-partum depression is a type of depression that occurs after pregnancy. Various factors such as hormonal changes, stress and fatigue may be responsible for such depression.
- Some individuals tend to continuously suffer from low self-esteem or low self-worth. This may be due to the inheritance of certain genes or because of life experiences. Such individuals may be at a higher risk of developing depression.
Remedies for Depression
If you think you may be suffering from depression, it is advisable to talk to your doctor. In cases where depression is severe, further specialized care may be required. The use of natural remedies for depression is not really a viable option, as the condition requires more than quick fixes or medications. Natural remedies that involve lifestyle changes can however help to a large extent, particularly in mild cases of depression. These go a long way in alleviating negative feelings, but should not be substitutes for proper medical care and attention. In addition, conventional approaches with counseling, therapy and support groups have an important role to play and do not involve any kind of medication. Here are some of the most effective home remedies for depression:
- Exercise can actually be therapeutic in relieving depressive symptoms and lifting the mood. It also helps to combat problems of reduced energy and sleeping difficulties. Exercise triggers the release of endorphins, which are hormones that promote a sense of well being and euphoria. Daily exercise such as walking, swimming or biking can also be a healthy distraction from otherwise stressful thoughts. The beneficial effects of physical exercise on depression have been well established by various studies
- Many studies have highlighted the positive effects of meditation. It helps to ease stress and anxiety. Regular meditation helps to clear the mind of anxious mental chatter and is thus beneficial in alleviating depression. Depression often results in repetitive negative thought patterns and meditation serves to break these patterns and free the mind. You can begin by meditating for just 5 to 10 minutes and then increase the duration as you grow accustomed to the practice. You can meditate effectively by simply focusing on your breathing.
- Alternative therapies such as acupuncture may also offer relief to some patients. This involves stimulating certain pressure points on the body. According to some studies, acupuncture may help to relieve symptoms of tiredness, anxiety and insomnia.
- Light therapy is a type of natural treatment for depression, mainly seasonal affective disorder. It involves exposing the individual to bright light in order to replicate exposure to sunlight. Sunlight is believed to help regulate the natural rhythm of the body.
- St. Johns wort is a popular herb which is used to treat depression. It is advisable to consult your doctor before taking any herbal supplements or remedies however.
Diet for Depression
Neurotransmitters such as dopamine, serotonin and endorphin are responsible for regulating moods and behavior. The body is able to produce these neurotransmitters because of certain nutrients like protein, fatty acids and carbohydrates. Since these nutrients come from the food we consume, it is important to pay attention to your diet. Eating the right foods can help to prevent nutritional deficiencies and hormonal imbalances. This, in turn, helps to prevent or reduce mood changes and emotional disturbances, where dietary deficiencies may have been contributing factors. Here are some tips on what to eat to prevent depression:
- The importance of eating a healthy breakfast cannot be stressed enough. It helps to maintain your blood sugar levels and thus keeps your moods stable. Oats make a good breakfast food because they help to combat stress and also keep your cholesterol levels in check.
- Dont drastically reduce fat from your diet. Some amount of fat is necessary for proper functioning. Try to ensure an intake of healthy fats such as omega-3 fatty acids which are found in foods such as nuts, fatty fish and seeds.
- Add plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables to your diet as these will supply your body with a variety of essential vitamins and minerals.
- Foods such as lean turkey, chicken and milk are high in tryptophan, an amino acid that stimulates the release of serotonin. Serotonin enhances mood.
- Restrict your intake of caffeinated beverages and alcohol. Some studies have indicated a link between excessive coffee consumption and depression. Alcohol affects mood and can also interfere with sleep.
- Avoid following restrictive or crash diets that eliminate an entire food group. These can considerably affect your normal body rhythm and may lead to hormonal imbalances.
Suggestions for Depression
If you feel you are suffering from depressive symptoms, try talking to a family member or a friend. Social support plays a significant role in diminishing feelings of isolation and hopelessness. Being in the company of others is reassuring and will also help to motivate you.
- M, Blumenthal JA, Herman S, Khatri P, Doraiswamy M, Moore K, Craighead WE, Baldewicz TT, Krishnan KR. Exercise treatment for major depression: maintenance of therapeutic benefit at 10 months. Psychosom Med. 2000 Sep-Oct;62(5):633-8. PubMed PMID: 11020092.
- Wang H, Qi H, Wang BS, Cui YY, Zhu L, Rong ZX, Chen HZ. Is acupuncture beneficial in depression: a meta-analysis of 8 randomized controlled trials? J Affect Disord. 2008 Dec;111(2-3):125-34. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2008.04.020. Epub 2008 Jun 11. Review. PubMed PMID: 18550177.
- Wirz-Justice A, Graw P, Kräuchi K, Gisin B, Jochum A, Arendt J, Fisch HU, Buddeberg C, Pöldinger W. Light therapy in seasonal affective disorder is independent of time of day or circadian phase. Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1993 Dec;50(12):929-37. PubMed PMID: 8250678.
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