Clinical depression is a disorder that affects many adults and children throughout the world. Depression, depending upon many different factors, can look very different from one person to the next. Treatments also vary. The following article is designed to help understand depression and its treatments.
What are the symptoms of depression?
First of all, it is important to note that symptoms of depression can vary based on individual characteristics, as well as the cause of depression. More than 350 million people, of all ages, around the world suffer from depression. This number includes the youngest of children to those in their elderly years. People of all races, origins, socioeconomic statuses, genders, etc. can suffer from depression. However, it should be noted that a significant amount more women suffer from depression than men.
Depression can also be caused by many different situations, which also has an influence on the symptoms of the disorder. For instance, many women suffer from postpartum depression, which is an onset of depression after giving birth, due to the traumatic factors of the event and the major changes in lifestyle that come with having a child. Getting older, having a disease or disability, gaining or losing weight in either significant amounts or a short time span, being in a bad relationship or breaking up with one, pregnancy itself, and so much more can also lead to the development of depression.
Depression is a normal occurrence at several points during one’s life. Everyone has surely experienced the loss of a loved one, a bad day at work, a failed relationship, etc. However, for people who actually have the disorder, these feelings become overwhelming. The feeling of being overwhelmed is a symptom on its own, but can also lead to many other symptoms as well.
A majority of depression symptoms revolve around mood and thoughts. Some of these include difficulty concentrating, worsened memory, difficulty in making decisions, negative feelings (such as guilt, worthlessness, hopelessness, helplessness, and more), irritability, anger, loss of interest in once pleasurable activities, feeling empty, sad, or anxious, etc. In the worst cases of depression, the sufferer may even become suicidal (feeling like they want to kill themselves). Sadly, more than 1 out of 10 cases of depression lead to suicide.
Depression is not all psychological, either, as many would think. Sure, the symptoms of depression begin with mood and thought changes. However, the state of mind has a lot of power in controlling the physical body, and a negative mindset can often lead to the development of physical symptoms. Some of these include fatigue or loss of energy, weakness or pain in the muscles, joints, and bones, insomnia or excessive sleeping, feeling the need to overeat or appetite loss, headaches, cramps, digestive problems, etc.
How Does Depression Affect Relationships?
Depression is not a condition that only affects one person. Like many other psychological problems, depression can lead to strained relationships with others. Relationships do not just mean romantic relationships, either. Depression can cause distance between romantic partners, friends, family members, co-workers, team mates, and so much more.
First of all, depression hurts relationships of any kind by taking away from successful communication. People suffering from depression tend to withdraw and become somewhat, if not totally, anti-social. They will stop reaching out to the people around them, participating in group activities, seeking social interactions, etc. Another effect of this is that these people tend to get “lost”, meaning that the people they were once close to often stop reaching out as well. This is not to say that people with depression are forgotten about, but people will generally not reach out to them nearly as much.
Secondly, fluctuating emotions can also take a huge toll on relationships. This also deals with a lack of communication, but just slightly more in depth. To explain, people with depression can express their intense negative emotions in one of two ways; withdrawing completely or lashing out. Again, the people who withdraw will become very anti-social and begin to avoid interactions of all kinds. On the other hand, some people suffering from depression will not be as withdrawn, but rather will become very obviously angry or bitter with those closest to them. For example, many men with depression will act out on their anger, becoming verbally, emotionally, or even physically or sexually (less likely) abusive towards their romantic partners, friends, family members, etc.
The third major way that depression affects relationships is the fact that it takes away interest in once enjoyable activities. For example, people who are on a sports team will stop actively participating and end up just “going through the motions”. They will show up to the games or practice, but not engage with anyone else. Their performance levels, and therefore the team’s performance, will drop. While this does not directly deal with relationships, it will definitely put a strain in team dynamics. In turn, the relationships between team mates will not be as close as they once were.
As for loss of interest in activities that directly affect relationships (romantic), a loss of sexual interest is one of the most common issues for couples when one has depression. This is not to say that sexual activities are the most important aspect of a successful relationship, but they are important. When the sex life was good, someone pulling away because of depression could lead to the other person feeling unwanted, undesirable, or pulling away as well.
Overall, depression puts a strain on any kind of relationship. People become withdrawn or lash out, lose interest in many different activities, become less productive or active, etc. People with depression have often been described as “not themselves”, meaning they seem to have taken on a completely different persona than the one which originally entered into these relationships, whatever they may be.
How Long Does Depression Last?
Depressive episodes are not like a cold; they do not have any set period of time, and their duration depends upon an individual’s characteristics, as well as lifestyle factors.
To begin, there are some average lengths of time that depression last. However, there are three subtypes of depression. Depending on the specific subtype that a person develops, they will experience symptoms at different times and for different lengths of time. The following are the three subtypes of depression:
- Major Depression – This can occur once in a person’s lifetime, after a traumatic or major life event. However, people with Major Depression typically experience several episodes over the course of their lifetime. It takes anywhere from a few days to several weeks for symptoms of Major Depression to develop fully. But, they can last for months or more.
- Dysthymic Disorder (Dysthymia) – This includes some of the same symptoms of Major Depression, but with less severity. However, the duration is much longer, since the symptoms can for several years or longer.
- Minor Depression – This disorder shares a few of the same symptoms of Major Depression and Dysthymic Disorder. However, they are less severe and last for a shorter duration of time.
However, these are just the average numbers considering the duration of depressive episodes. These are not set in stone and many people experience variations in these time periods. Furthermore, there are several factors that contribute to these differences, such as gender or age. For instance, women tend to experience more depression symptoms, and for longer durations of time than men.
Other contributing factors to the duration of depression include the following:
- Culture – Certain groups of people have certain ideas about psychological disorders. For instance, some cultures still view the development of psychological disorders as a reason for shame upon the friends and family of the person with the disorder. Unfortunately, then, this means that people in these cultures are less likely to seek treatment, or even admit that they have a problem. Therefore, duration of depressive episodes will be longer for these people.
- Financial Status – First of all, financial problems can actually be part of the cause of depression, but also contribute to how long the episodes last. For instance, if someone with financial struggles has depression, they are less likely to seek treatment, not for shame, but simply because they can not afford it.
These are two contributors which deal with treatment availability, which definitely does affect the length of depressive episodes. However, other characteristics of a person or their lifestyle can also lengthen the duration. For example, there are certain biological factors that play a role in developing a disorder like depression. While a person can modify these somewhat, through diet, exercise, relationships, etc., they are mainly out of a person’s control. Certain aspects of a person’s diet, such as consuming too much caffeine, can also increase the length and severity of a depressive episode.
Again, though, there is not set answer to the question of how long depression lasts.
How to get over depression naturally
The most important detail concerning the treatment of clinical depression, which is defined as “a mood disorder in which feelings of sadness, loss, anger, or frustration interfere with everyday life for weeks or longer”, is that it is not necessarily curable. This means that the disorder is chronic and will arise randomly throughout one’s life. However, which the right treatment and prevention techniques, it can be quite easy to keep the symptoms from setting on or lasting for very long. Symptoms of depression are what gets treated, not the disorder, itself.
Natural cures (those which do not use pharmaceutical methods in treatment) are quite helpful in treating depression and its symptoms, since many medications often have side effects, such as worsened symptoms, headaches, nausea, drowsiness, etc., not to mention the fact that medication and therapy do not always work for everyone. The following include some natural treatments that would be wise to try before seeking medical help:
- Exercise – This allows the body to release endorphins, which are a very specific group of hormones that create a mood-stabilizing effect. Put simply, exercise makes people happy. Participating in a sport or other activity, or even just walking, can cause the secretion of endorphins.
- Knowing Oneself – The first step in treating depression really is understanding the cause of it. Many people can choose to ask themselves questions such as “Am I unable to let go of something, like a deceased loved one or a current relationship?”, “Am I feeling spiritually disconnected?”, “Am I having a creative block?”, “Am I selling out my integrity for something minor?”, “Is my financial stability a little off?”, and more. Getting in touch with oneself and really understanding life’s struggle and one’s own personality really help in treating depression and its symptoms.
- Nature – Getting more in touch with nature, like walking outdoors, watching the birds fly by, getting sun exposure, etc., can all help to give a person who is feeling depressed a more free and lighthearted feeling. Furthermore, sun exposure can help to get the body the Vitamin D that it is often lacking.
- Diet – Going along those lines, diet is extremely important in treating depression. Often times, people are lacking in essential vitamins and nutrients that they need to keep their hormones and mood balanced. There are many different diet alterations which people can try that will be discussed in the next section.
What foods are best for depression?
There is a great amount of debate in the field of Psychology as to what exactly causes depression. Well, in fact, it is a combination of several things. Diet plays a huge role in psychological well being. One cause of depression, aside from life circumstances, is chemical imbalances in the brain.
The foods and drinks that people consume play a large role in brain chemicals. To give an example, serotonin is one neurotransmitter that people are often lacking. Serotonin helps to regulate mood, sleep, appetite, learning, and memory. It also contributes to growth and development in the organs and bones. Of course, this is not the only important chemical in combating depression.
For serotonin enhancement, foods high in omega-3 fatty acids (ex. wild salmon, sardines, herring, mackerel, anchovies) are helpful. Certain fats, like coconut oil, also help to increase serotonin levels. Lastly, a high-protein diet is recommended for those in need of serotonin. High-tryptophan proteins, such as turkey, are especially helpful.
As was stated in the previous section, Vitamin D is also helpful in regulating mood. Sun exposure, many types of fish, orange juice, dairy, eggs, liver, beef, and fortified cereal are all good sources of Vitamin D.
Certain minerals, such as Selenium, could also be lacking, and therefore causing symptoms of depression to worsen or develop. While Selenium supplements are available, certain foods also contain it naturally and are much easier (and tastier) sources of it. Examples of these foods include beans, legumes, lean meat, low-fat dairy, nuts (brazil nuts), seeds, seafood, and whole grains.
Certain foods should also be avoided. For instance, products which are high in fat, sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, oils, etc. could cause a weight gain, which, as was previously discussed, could contribute to the development of depression. Although, it should be noted that depression is caused by a variety of factors in combination with one another (social, emotional, development, biological, etc.), not just one in particular.
Another, not necessarily food, but added ingredient to many foods and drinks that should be avoided is caffeine. Caffeine has been linked to depression in many studies, for a variety of reasons. For one, since it puts the body in Fight or Flight mode (being a stimulant), it can caused the adrenal glands which release adrenaline to become worn down and fatigued. Added exhaustion can lead to decreased mood or mood instability, as well as full blown depression. Furthermore, caffeine also causes a drop in serotonin levels, which again, can lead to depression. It too has weight-gaining qualities as well.
Lastly, it is important to remember about diet in general that consistency is key. People need to be sure that they are getting all of the nutrients they need, as well as getting the proper amount of food from each food group (see a “Food Pyramid” for assistance). Also, people should not skip meals. Not only does it throw off a person’s metabolism, which could lead to both mood and weight fluctuations, but it also causes a lack of essential nutrients. Three meals a day, properly balanced between each other and the food groups, can easily help to keep a person’s mood in check.
Alternative Ways to Treat Depression
First of all, there are many pharmaceutical methods to treating the symptoms of depression. Two of the most common methods are medication and therapy. Many professionals would recommend that a person trying to treat their depression go with one of these two options, or even a combination of both. Various types of therapy are available, such as going to see a psychiatrist simply to talk, group or social therapy, etc. These people are also able to prescribe antidepressant and anti-anxiety medication.
Mood-stabilizing supplements are also available. These include the following:
- 5-HTP – This converts directly into serotonin. It can be taken up to three times per day (between 50-300 mg).
- St. John’s Wort – 300 mg three times per day. If need be, this can be taken at a 600 mg dosage.
- SAMe – This is an antidepressant. It should be taken on an empty stomach twice per day (200 mg). The dosage should be doubled every two weeks until a 600 mg dosage is reached.
- L-Theanine – Should be taken once per day in doses of 100-600 mg. This is also a supplement found in green tea.
- Fish Oil – Should be taken in doses of 1-3 g per day with food.
However, it is perfectly natural for people to not want to go with the medicinal route, because of personal beliefs, potential side effects, cost, etc. For these people, treatment is still an option. Many alternative treatments for depression are available.
The first alternative treatment option for depression is meditation and yoga. While these two are technically separate activities, they often go hand in hand. They both work by bringing about a calm and relaxed mood. It also allows for concentration and inward thinking, where people can examine themselves and their personality in a calm state that can almost be compared to an out of body experience. This mood-enhancing effects also acts to release neurotransmitters which help to stabilize mood, such as serotonin and dopamine.
Meditation and yoga are also great for treating depression because it helps to relax the physical body. Again, people often suffer from muscle cramps and joint pain when they are depressed or stressed out. These activities help to alleviate that pain.
Secondly, going along these lines, exercise is another great way to alleviate depression. It was mentioned in a previous section that exercise helps to release mood-enhancing endorphins. Not only does exercise help with mood, but it is undoubtedly great for physical well being as well. For one thing, it can help, just like meditation and yoga, to alleviate physical pain brought about by stress and depression. Secondly, exercise keeps the heart, lungs, and many other parts of the body healthy, and people have a better mood when they are healthy.
Other relaxation techniques also act as mood stabilizers. People can relax in any number of ways. It all just depends on personal preference which method they choose. For example, some people can relax just by laying on a couch or bed. Others can take a walk and feel relaxed and at peace. Guided imagery, a visualization technique which allows for the person to imagine sense-provoking scenes, is also very relaxing. During this process, many people choose to imagine scenes of nature, such as a beach or a running waterfall.
Listening to music can also help a person to relax and release essential neurotransmitters needed to have a better mood. Again, though, this is also a matter of personal preference. People feel good with many different types of music, or may just need peace and quiet.
Whatever the case may be, whatever the depression is mainly caused by, or whatever a person’s preferences are, there is always a treatment available. Seeking out treatment is always good. More than anything though, it is important to remain positive and know that there is a way for the situation to improve.