It is normal to feel down or sad at some points in life. Without being sad, we wouldn’t know happy. However, for many people, that feeling of sadness does not go away. The feeling of hopelessness, despondency, guilt, just will not go away and interferes with their daily life. Depression affects not only the person dealing with it, but their loved ones as well. There are different forms of depression depending on how long it lasts: Major Depression and Persistent Depressive Order.
Major Depression is the feeling of extreme sadness, hopelessness, helplessness, unworthiness, that interferes with every aspect of one’s life. It affects their ability to work, to go to school, to engage in everyday activities, and their relationships. They may not want to eat, can’t sleep, and just cannot enjoy life in any way. A major depression usually occurs more than one time in a person’s life.
Persistent Depressive Order is only diagnosed only after a person has been experiencing symptoms for more than 2 years. The symptoms can be severe, like a major depression followed by less severe symptoms, but the overall time period is 2 years.
Depression can be caused by different life scenarios such as Post-Partum Depression. This depression sets in after the birth of a child. This is much more serious and extreme than the “baby blues”. Baby blues is where the mother experiences hormonal and physical shifts that can feel overwhelming. However, the baby blues will lift in a few months. The Post-Partum Depression is much more severe and longer lasting but is still instigated by the birthing process. Another form of depression is Seasonal Affect Disorder (SAD) which affects people who do not get enough sunlight typically in the winter months of places like Alaska. The depression sets in and it is usually recommended that the person does light therapy. However, for some people light therapy does not work and they will need therapy and/or medication (according to allopathic medicine). This type of depression is “seasonal” and usually gets better in the summer and spring when there is more natural daylight. Psychotic depression is a major depression where the person also experiences delusions or hallucinations. They lose touch with reality and may start to hear things that are disturbing to them. Depression is most likely caused by a combination of genetics, environmental factors, and biological factors. Depression runs in families, but even those people who do not have a history of depression in their family can be afflicted by it too. Emotional traumas such as a divorce or loss of a loved one may trigger a depressive episode or it can just happen with no trigger.
Signs and symptoms of depression are: low energy or fatigue throughout the day, a sadness that persists day to day, a major fluctuation in weight (either up or down), recurring thoughts of death or suicidal thoughts, a feeling of being unworthy that lasts throughout the day, no pleasure in daily living or usual daily activities, insomnia or the opposite where you sleep too much, cannot concentrate, lack of focus, feelings of hopelessness, helplessness, guilt that does not subside, no longer enjoying sex, headaches and other pains that do not get better with treatment and an overall “empty” feeling that will not go away . One of the key notes of depression is that you have a marked depressed mood or you have lost interest in the activities that you once enjoyed doing for a minimum of two weeks.
About 9 million Americans suffer from depression and at least 3 % suffer from major depression. Depression is the leading cause of disability in Americans ages 15 to 44. http://www.everydayhealth.com/health-report/major-depression/depression-statistics.aspx 1 in 20 Americans ages 12 or older reported as having recurrent depression in 2005-2006 and those numbers are on the rise. http://www.cdc.gov/mentalhealth/data_stats/depression.htmWomen are 70% more likely to suffer from depression at some point in their lives than men. This is hypothesized to be due to the hormonal fluctuations in a woman, the key times being pregnancy, birth, menstruation, and menopause. It is also suggested that more often than not women seek out treatment for depression, whereas men think they will get over it on their own. Out of the 30,000 suicides each year in the United States, depression accounts for two-thirds. The rates of depression are on the rise. Most experts agree that depression is a global epidemic with over 5% of the world’s population suffering from depression according to the World Health Organization. http://www.everydayhealth.com/health-report/major-depression/depression-statistics.aspx
Someone who suffers from depression usually has other issues such as anxiety, drug dependency problems, eating disorders, Parkinson’s disease, or cancer. Depression is hard on the individual who has it and on their relationships. Depression can often lead to divorce and ironically, divorce can often lead to a major depression. Depression can lead to many days off of work which can cost the individual thousands of dollars and the United States over 23 billions of dollars of each year. http://www.everydayhealth.com/health-report/major-depression-resource-center/sanjay-gupta-depression-in-the-workplace.aspx A person who has depression has a hard time focusing so even when they are at work they are less productive than their counterparts. People who receive treatment of some kind for their depression are two and a half times more productive. With more than 5% of the world suffering from depression the cost of depression globally is staggering.
The traditional allopathic treatment for depression is medication and therapy. The most often prescribed antidepressants come from a family of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) these include Zoloft, Prozac, Paxil and Lexapro all of which have fewer side effects than other medications. Pharmaceuticals are all toxic and have effects, some of which are wanted and some of which are considered side effects. The side effects for example, of Zoloft, can be weight gain or loss, low sexual libido, difficulty having an orgasm, impotence, headaches, nausea, diarrhea, constipation, dry mouth, insomnia, dizziness, sleepiness, stomach pain, stomach upset, and skin rash. Often it is a trial and error to see which medication will work for an individual. Other drugs may be used on a short term basis such as anti-anxiety medications or antipsychotics. Medications do not address the root cause of depression. Typically depression will reoccur at some point in a person’s life once they have stopped the medication. The most common form of therapy for depression is Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT). In fact, studies have shown that CBT is just as likely in helping with the symptoms of mild depression as taking an antidepressant. In CBT a person learns what their recurring negative thoughts are and how to change them around to be more positive or realistic. If they are more realistic then the person tends to feel better. CBT takes time and effort. A person is typically given homework so they can practice what they learned during their office visit. The small changes build over time eventually helping a person to improve their outlook on life and overall mood.
Due to the side effects that come along with taking antidepressants people may look to alternative and complementary medicine. Here are some alternative models of healthcare used to treat the symptoms of depression.
Diet and Exercise: Drink plenty of clean water. A lot of people who have depression are dehydrated. A person needs to drink at least eight 8oz glass of water per day. A healthy diet of whole foods and no processed foods is recommended in order to stabilize the blood sugar levels. Too much sugar and processed foods causes the blood sugars to rise and then there is always a drop which can lead to low energy and fatigue. Omega 3 fatty acids, Vitamin B12, and folic acid have been shown to help the functioning of the brain. A great way to get your fatty acids is to take cod liver oil or fish oil. Exercise releases endorphins which are mood elevators and helps improve your overall immune function. A study done in 2005 showed that people who exercised 30 minutes a day 5 days a week or 60 minutes 3 times a week had a significant influence on their symptoms of mild to moderate depression.http://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/exercise-and-depression-report-excerpt
Yoga: postures, techniques, breathing and meditation all rolled into one. Yoga helps to strengthen the mind and body. It requires concentrated effort which helps to calm the mind. Different kinds of yoga are available including, Hatha, Vinyasa, Bikram, and Ashtanga. Hatha is a good place for beginners as it is the most gentle, slower paced yoga. You can either join a class at your local gym/studio or you can do a video at home. There are numerous postures that you can do on your own at home that can help with the symptoms of depression.
Reiki: a Japanese healing technique. The word Reiki means “spiritually guided life force energy”. The practitioner’s hands float above your body restoring balance and calm to the body. Reiki reduces stress. Reiki has been shown to improve sleep, reduce pain, reduce nausea, and improve overall immune function. Some hospitals use Reiki on their patients to help reduce the stress in their cancer rehabilitation units. Reiki typically costs $65 or more for an hour long treatment.
Homeopathy: an energetic form of medicine that was founded by Samuel Hahnemann over 200 years ago. Homeopathic remedies are made from plants, animals, minerals and are highly diluted so there are no toxic side effects. Homeopathy treats the patient as a whole. There are many different remedies for depression. It is the job of the homeopathic practitioner to best match your symptoms as a whole to the symptoms produced by a remedy. Often a grief that is due to a lost loved one can be helped with the remedy Ignatia (made from a flower). Again, every person is unique and it is best to have a consultation with an experienced homeopath for the best long term effects. A homeopathic consultation lasts an hour or two and the cost can be $135 or more. Homeopathy can treat the symptoms of disease, but it is not a one dose fix all type of solution. It takes time and commitment to your journey of healing.
Mindfulness Meditation: the simplest form of meditation is to close your eyes and bring attention to your breath. In over 47 studies it was shown that meditation can help relieve pain, anxiety and depression. The mindfulness part is becoming aware of the present because if you live in the present there can be no worry about the future or regrets about the past. You basically retrain your brain over an 8 week course on how to be present. Meditation can be done at home or in a class setting. There are many videos that can teach you how to meditate and stay mindful.
Neurofeedback (NFB): A form of biofeedback where the participant is hooked up to electrodes carefully placed on the head. They then watch a series of games/programs that help retrain the brain to create new brainwave patterns. Studies have shown that neurofeedback helps to relieve the symptoms of depression and create these new patterns thus making it unlikely that you will get depressed in the future.
Cranialsacral Therapy: with a light touch and gentle pressure the practitioner adjusts the cranial bones allowing the cerebral spinal fluid to flow. Cranial therapy is relaxing to the central nervous system thereby helping to improve overall immune function. It has been shown in studies to help relieve symptoms of anxiety and depression. Numerous visits are required to see long term improvement in symptoms. Average visit is 30 minutes to 1 hour and can cost $65 or more.
Acupuncture: a practitioner places needles in certain key points along the meridians of the body that relate to specific organs. In Chinese medicine they believe disease is caused by blocked emotions. By placing needles at these key points the energy is then allowed to flow. Most people relax so much during an acupuncture visit that they actually fall asleep. Numerous visits are required and the cost can be $65 or more per visit. However, some cities offer community acupuncture where the cost is done on a sliding scale.
Acupressure: is similar to acupuncture but is done with the pressure of your fingers. This can be done by a practitioner for best results. However, acupressure points can also be taught to an individual so they can do them at home or work at any time of day.
Alternative and Complementary modes of healthcare can be useful in treating symptoms of depression or helping to relieve some of the side effects of the antidepressants. However, most of the time they are not covered by your medical insurance and they require numerous visits. This means time off of work to make it to your appointments as well as the cost of the appointments themselves.
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