What is depression?
Depression and anxiety are ever-present and a reality of everyday life. When approp¬riate to life events, depression is usually of no major significance, but occasionally may require supportive care and counselling.
A person with depression finds it hard to function properly even with simple day-to-day activities, and doesn’t enjoy life – even the good times. While it’s normal to feel sad occasionally when things don’t go according to plan, the sadness usually passes with time. However, people with clinical depression are sad and depressed most of the time and these feelings impede their ability to function and enjoy life. Their sadness and depression is so prevalent that the people around them are affected.
In recent times, there has been a definite push to define grief, emotional hurt, and unhappiness as depression and institute drug therapy to ease personal distress. As a result, emotional grief and unhappiness have become medicalised, which has resulted in antidepressant medication overuse and substan¬tial emotional, financial, and productivity costs to individuals and the community.
Depression is also called clinical depression or major depressive disorder.
Although the triggers are similar and the two problems often happen at the same time, anxiety is different to depression. Some people with depression also have an overlapping anxiety disorder. Persistent anxiety is one symptom of depression.
Depression can be a chronic illness than has a major negative impact if left undiagnosed and not properly treated and managed.
Depression is a mental state or chronic mental disorder characteriaed by feelings of sadness, loneliness, despair, low self-esteem, and self-reproach; accompanying signs include psychomotor retardation (or less frequently agitation), withdrawal from social contact, and vegetative states such as loss of appetite and insomnia.
Three types – reactive depressions, major affective disorders, secondary depression
How to treat depression – conventional medicine
A range of effective treatments is available to enable a person to recover from depression. Finding the right treatment and the right health professional to manage the treatment is an important consideration and can affect recovery. Psychological, medical and group support can be used in combination to aid recovery from depression.
Psychological treatments help with changing negative patterns of thinking and improve coping skills. Cognitive behaviour therapy, interpersonal therapy, behaviour therapy, and mindfulness-based cognitive therapy are all psychological treatments that can help a person recover. These therapies also reduce likelihood of recurrence because they enable a person to cope better with life’s stresses and conflicts.
The main medical treatment for moderate and severe depression is antidepressant medication. Conventional medical therapy typically uses psychotropic antidepressant medications, which alter the brain neurotransmitter balance. Antidepressant medications affect either neurotransmitter synthesis or synapse re-uptake, and improve neurotransmitter receptor activity. Psychotherapy and counselling are often used in conjunction, when the episode is event or outcome focused and of short-duration.
Outcome studies report that combined medication and psychotherapy provides somewhat better outcomes compared with just medication or psychotherapy alone. Psychotherapy on its own generally resulting in the poorest outcome.
If you have been prescribed antidepressant medication, do not stop taking medication without first discussing that option with your doctor.
Because depression and anxiety can be chronic disorders that last for many months, even years, support and understanding from family and friends is key to recovery.
Exercise and keeping active helps to improve moods, the quality of sleep, energy levels, social contact, and general well being. Exercise provides a break from day-to-day worries and stimulates useful chemicals in the brain, such as serotonin, endorphins, and stress hormones.
Selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors
Serotonin depletion is the primary biological disturbance in most patients with depression. However, in about 10–20% dopamine-catecholamine depletion is the primary abnormality.
The commonest antidepressant medications currently used are the selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SRRIs), which reduce pre-synaptic serotonin re-uptake and enhance post-synaptic serotonin activity.
Serotonin receptors occur in multiple forms and so generalised 5-HT receptor stimulation may occur, and long-term use can trigger adverse side
- Stimulation of 5-HT1 receptors is associated with antidepressant and anxiolytic effects
- Stimulation of 5-HT2 receptors produces nervousness, insomnia, and sexual dysfunction, and blockade is associated with alleviation of depression, and
- Stimulation of 5-HT3 receptors is associated with nausea and headache, and blockade reverses the nausea.
SSRIs have a wide therapeutic margin, are relatively easy to administer, and rarely need dose adjustment – features that contribute to their wide acceptance as antidepressant therapy.
SSRIs are also effective in the treat¬ment of depression-related disorders, such as dysthymic disorder (persistent depressive disorder), atypical depression, seasonal affective disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, social phobia, bulimia, premens¬trual syn¬drome, and possibly borderline personality disorder.
How nutritional medicine specialists assess and treat depression
As with other major brain disorders, such as autism, anxiety disorder, and Parkinson’s disease, the significant increase in mental illness and depressive disorders during the past 50 years can be linked to substantial societal change.
Increased stress, environmental pollution, and substantial changes in our general diet are linked to brain function and mental health issues. People eat more processed foods, which are high in fat and carbohydrate content, and low in omega-3-fatty acids, antioxidants, and beneficial nutrients.
All these factors are associated with increased demand on neuronal function and, in some instances, may directly impair brain function and mood.
Nutrition medicine therapy assesses a patient’s individual nutritional status, genetic nutrient requirements, and social and environmental habitat, and then corrects all trigger factors and metabolic mediators that might cause disease.
While no unique diet has been developed specifically to treat depression, making healthy food choices and taking regular exercise are essential elements for managing depression.
Environmental factors that might cause depression
Multiple toxic chemicals and heavy metals can cause depressive disorders, and other psychiatric and neurological problems. Low-level but chronic build-up of these chemicals in the brain alters neuronal and brain metabolism, which can lead to secondary dysfunction that affects hormonal and immunological control systems.
The resultant hormonal and immunological imbalances produced can further interfere with brain tissue metabolism, producing progressive decline in neuronal function.
To ensure normal brain metabolism, a thorough evaluation of heavy metal and chemical exposure is needed. If heavy metals and chemicals are found, detoxification therapy combined with supportive nutrition and hormone therapy can restore cerebral metabolic competency.
Nutrition-related diseases that might cause depression
Nutrition-related disease is a common predisposing problem in patients with depression. Insulin resistance and diabetes, cardiovascular disease, autoimmune disease, chronic inflammatory disease, allergic disorders, and liver disease can all affect brain health. An integrated diet-nutrient program can reduce and correct these types of nutrition-related diseases and relieve long-term depression.