Are you feeling blue? Temporary feelings of depression are normal healthy reactions after a life-changing or traumatic event such as isolation, health challenges, the death of a loved one, the loss of a job, etc. However, if a person suffers from chronic depression, melancholia or dysthymia, this is a major depressive disorder. What is the difference and what steps can you take right now to help with your symptoms of depression?
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF DEPRESSION?
A person with depression can experience a variety of emotions, symptoms, or behaviors including:
- anxiousness or restlessness
- hopelessness or helplessness
- feeling invaluable or worthless
- inappropriate feelings of guilt or shame
- lack of interest or apathy
- lack of emotion
- inappropriate emotional reaction (such as laughing when something is sad)
- changes in appetite, eating more or less food than normal.
- trouble concentrating
- avoiding making decisions
- unusually irritable or angry
- relationship difficulties
- thoughts of commiting suicide
- insomnia, trouble sleeping or waking up in the middle of the night
- excessive sleeping
- muscle aches, pains,
- digestive problems,
- lack of energy
WHAT CAUSES DEPRESSION?
Life-changing traumas, such as death of a loved one, neglect, mental, emotional or physical abuse, sexual abuse, and living with family members who have mental illness can contribute to depression in adulthood. Those who experienced childhood physical or sexual abuse are significantly more likely to experience depression as an adult. Common life experiences that can trigger a temporary depressed mood are:
- bullying or verbal, mental, physical abuse
- medical diagnosis
- rape or sexual assault
- socially limiting injury
- change in relationship
- financial difficulties
- work stress
- death of a loved one
- social isolation or forced sedentary life
- world disaster (war)
- separation from loved one
- natural disasters
WHO IS MORE LIKELY TO EXPERIENCE DEPRESSION?
Depression can affect people of all ages and genders. In adults, major depressive disorder affects twice as many women as men. However women attempt suicide and fail more often than men, but men are three to four times more likely to commit suicide than women. This is felt to be primarily because men choose more successful methods, and because women are more likely to talk about it or write about it. They will communicate and share their emotions with others, and this appears to be a contributing factor to preventing suicide. Black men and women are 20% more likely to experience depression than Caucasian men and women.
For both men and women, depression is is most commonly experienced by those who are 25-44 years of age, and least common for those 65 years of age or older. Clinical depression affects girls and boys at about the same rate in childhood, however, studies show that adolescents may be especially prone to experiencing depressed mood if they are experiencing social rejection, social isolation, peer pressure and bullying.
WHAT ARE NATURAL TREATMENTS FOR DEPRESSION?
Of course, always consult with your trusted physician or health-care provider. The primary treatment for depression in the western world is medication, however other more natural and less invasive treatments or preventative measures are being used worldwide to effectively treat depression:
- EAT A HEALTHY DIET – Increase your intake of B vitamins and magnesium. Fish-oil, rich in Omega-3 fatty acids such as avocados, coconut oil, Flaxseed oil, Try sour cherries, eggs, bell peppers, almonds, bananas, pumpkin seeds, soy products and spinach. Avoid processed, packaged, fried foods. See our article on “mood-boosting foods” for more information.
- STOP DRINKING COFFEE – Stop drinking coffee and instead drink green tea to energize yourself when feeling blah and tired. It contains L-theanine which works with caffeine to boost mood in without the crash-effect often experienced with coffee. It also boosts dopamine.
- DRINK CHAMOMILE – Drink chamomile tea to relieve stress and relax. Chamomile can also help relax and also soothe stomach ache or digestive disorders often occuring as a result of a “nervous stomach.”
- EXERCISE OR DANCE- Exercise regularly. Exercise might be challenging when feeling depressed, but studies show that exercise releases endorphins in the brain, and endorphins make us feel happy. We look for quick fixes but nothing beats the adrenaline rush we get from staying fit and exercising regularly. Try fitness centers, dance studios, gyms, physical therapy, yoga, Jazzercise, pilates. Check out our online directory for more information and listings of thousands of services.
- USE SUPPLEMENTS – Use herbal supplements or essential oils to help with stress or anxiety such as Valerian root (Valeriana officinalis), Passionflower (Passiflora incarnata), California Poppy ( Eschscholzia californica), Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera), Magnolia Bark (Magnolia officinalis), and Lavender. Herbs that can be effective for depression also include Crataegus oxyacantha (hawthorn), Ginkgo biloba and Melissa officinalis (lemon balm)
- CUT DOWN ON ELECTROMAGNETIC RADIATION – Try to limit the amount of time spent on the computer or watching television. Even if you have eliminated watching or listening to depressing or disheartening programs, studies show that an overload of electromagnetic radiation can contribute to feelings of despair or depression. Instead, try listening to your favorite, happy, mood-uplifting tunes on the radio or CD player. Create a playlist of music that lifts the heart and brings a smile to your face.
- TALK TO SOMEONE – Call a trusted friend or family member who you know is a good listener, or talk with a licensed counselor or therapist, or your family physician. If you feel socially isolated and have no friends, find a support group and make new friends. Join a church, community center, or support group that allows you to share your feelings safely and anonymously.
- TRY LIGHT THERAPY – Studies show that Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) can be effectively treated by increased exposure to sunlight or artificial light by activating the brain’s “circadian pacemaker” which regulates sleep cycles.
- SPEND TIME WITH ANIMALS – The unconditional love of a pet has been shown to lift the mood of those dealing with chronic depression. Hospitals have pet therapy dogs who visit patients to lift the mood of those facing chronic illnesses. Studies have confirmed that people who have pets have a longer life expectancy than those who do not.
- DRINK MORE WATER – Dehydration can be a very common cause of fatigue and depression. Make a conscious effort to drink plenty of water throughout the day. Monitor your water intake for a week to determine if you are getting enough water. It’s often recommended to drink 6-8, 8-ounce glasses of water every day, however people of different lifestyles, ages and conditions, will need different amounts of water (people with chronic illnesses, or different exercise routines, and metabolism, may require more or less water)
- GET OUTSIDE – Spend time outside gardening or enjoying nature, breathing in the fresh air and enjoying nature. If you are too ill to get outside or weather is not permitting, try watching an uplifting nature video or documentary and imagine yourself traveling to a favorite place that brings peace of mind, body and spirit such as to the ocean, mountains, waterfalls, or forest, or maybe your spirit is lifted by visiting a favorite city such as Paris, London, or San Francisco.
- VOLUNTEER – Find a way to give to others. Volunteer to work with others in your community or to donate time or money to help those who are going through challenges. Nothing lifts the heart more than knowing that you have made a difference in the lives of others
- MEDITATION OR PRAYER – Meditation, spiritual study, prayer, are effective in reducing signs of depression. If you are hesitant to attend a church and don’t know where to begin, try listening to audio or video presentations from different religious paths, which are available online. Take it slow. Do what feels right to you. Begin a daily discipline of spiritual study to open the heart and build faith and hope.
- KEEP A JOURNAL – Keeping a daily journal can help you break through blocks and barriors and is often a recommended treatment for depression especially for those with lifestyle challenges (death in the family, loss of job, bullying at school, health problem, relationship problems, etc.). Writing down daily experiences, challenges, thoughts, and feelings, can help a person work through issues and create an organized plan.
- GET RID OF KARMA – Check in with yourself. Is procrastination a problem? Do you have some old broken promises you never kept? Are there some phone calls you need to make? Unfinished jobs to complete? Cleaning up old messes and paying old debts is a great way to get rid of the dark cloud of depression and free yourself so that lingering guilt and shame vanishes from your life. If you need help, try a life coach to help you set goals and move forward with your life.
- GRATITUDE LIST – Keep a list of things that you are grateful for everyday, especially when times are tough. Check out our gratitude quotes for inspiration
- CHECKUP/PHYSICAL CARE – Sometimes depression can be a natural side effect of a physical problem. If your life seems to be in order and you are experiencing chronic depression, get a thorough checkup and physical exam. There may be a number of underlying physical conditions that trigger depression such as infectious diseases, nutritional problems, and/or neurological conditions, including chronic pain, hypothyroidism, multiple sclerosis, stroke, diabetes, Lyme disease, Cushing’s syndrome, Addison’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and cancer.
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Jean Dart, M.S. Special Education from Illinois State University, is a published author and has written hundreds of health articles as well as hosting a local television program, “Making Miracles Happen.” She is a Registered Music Therapist, Sound Therapist, and Master Level Energetic Teacher, and is the Executive Director, founder, and Health and Wellness Educator of the Monterey Bay Holistic Alliance, a 501(c)3 health education nonprofit organization. All photos used in this article are by www.pixabay.com unless otherwise noted. To find out more about our Health Educators, or to apply as a Monterey Bay Holistic Alliance writer or volunteer, visit our website at www.montereybayholistic.com
Disclaimer: The Monterey Bay Holistic Alliance is a charitable, independent registered nonprofit 501(c)3 organization and does not endorse any particular products or practices. We exist as an educational organization dedicated to providing free access to health education resources, products and services. Claims and statements herein are for informational purposes only and have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The statements about organizations, practitioners, methods of treatment, and products listed on this website are not meant to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. This information is intended for educational purposes only. The MBHA strongly recommends that you seek out your trusted medical doctor or practitioner for diagnosis and treatment of any existing health condition.