What is Depression?
Depression is a "whole-body" illness, involving your body, mood, and
thoughts. It affects the way you eat and sleep, the way you feel about
yourself, and the way you think about things. A depressive disorder is
not the same as a passing blue mood. It is not a sign of personal
weakness or a condition that can be willed or wished away. People with
depression cannot merely "pull themselves together" and get better.
Without treatment, symptoms can last for weeks, months, or years.
Appropriate treatment, however, can help most people who have
The symptoms of depression vary from person to person, and the
intensity of the symptoms depends on the severity of the depression.
Depression causes changes in thinking, feeling, behavior, and physical
There are three primary types of depression: Major Depression;
Dysthymia; and Bipolar Depression. In addition to these primary
depressions, many people also develop a "reactive depression," which
may be less severe, but still requires psychological treatment. A reactive
depression occurs when you develop many of the symptoms of
depression in response to the stress of a major life problem, but they
are not severe enough to be considered a major depression. If these
milder symptoms of depression occur without a clear life stress as the
cause, and the depression has not lasted long enough to by considered
dysthymia, then it is called an Unspecified Depression. Other
depressions may be caused by the physiological effects of a medical
condition, or by substance abuse. The specific depression label,
beyond the three primary types of depression and reactive depression,
will not be reviewed here.
Major depression - Also known as unipolar or clinical depression,
people have some or all of the depression symptoms listed below for at
least 2 weeks or as long as several months or even longer. Episodes of
the illness can occur once, twice, or several times in a lifetime.
Dysthymia - The same symptoms are present. However they are usually
milder, but last at least two years. People with dysthymia also can
experience major depressive episodes.
Manic-depression - This is also called bipolar disorder. This type of
depression is not nearly as common as other forms of depression. It
involves disruptive cycles of depressive symptoms that alternate with
euphoria, irritable excitement, or mania.
The Symptoms of Depression and Mania:
You should talk to a psychologist for an evaluation, if you experience
several of the following symptom clusters, and the symptoms persist for
more than two weeks, or if they interfere with your work or your family
life. However, not everyone with depression experiences all of these
symptoms, and the severity of the symptoms also varies from person to
Persistent sad, anxious, or "empty" mood
Loss of interest or pleasure in your usual activities, including sex
Restlessness, irritability, or excessive crying
Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, helplessness, hopelessness, pessimism
Sleeping too much or too little, early morning awakening
Appetite and/or weight loss or overeating and weight gain
Decreased energy, fatigue, feeling "slowed down"
Thoughts of death or suicide, or suicide attempts
Difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions
Persistent physical symptoms that do not respond to treatment, such as
headaches, digestive disorders, or chronic pain
Abnormally elevated mood
Increased activity, including sexual activity
Markedly increased energy
Poor judgment that leads to risk-taking behavior
Inappropriate social behavior
Some people mistakenly try to control their depressive symptoms
through alcohol or other mood-altering drugs. While such drugs may
provide temporary relief, they will eventually complicate the depressive
disorder & its treatment, & can lead to dependence & the life adjustment
problems that come with it.
Many people with drug & alcohol problems have an underlying
Are you depressed?
Natural cures are sometimes just as effective as medication (anti-
depressants). Medication in most cases is short-term and you may
suffer side effects especially coming off them.
Which Natural Cures for Depression are most Popular and do they
work? Read on...
Low-fat dairy products, bananas, turkey and soy foods help boost
serotonin in your brain which improves your mood.
Omega-3 oils - (see also below under supplements) - tuna, fish,
purslane, salmon, nut oils.
If you lack omega-3 fats in your diet you may suffer from tiredness
(fatigue), poor memory, dry skin, heart problems, mood swings,
depression, and poor circulation. Various studies have found a link
between Omega-3 oils and bipolar disorder and depression.
Depression can result from the body taking in too many refined
carbohydrates. Too many man-made unnatural foods is not healthy and
sugar is so addictive!
Sugar can help cause mental illness, because it causes insulin
resistance, unstable blood sugar levels and raised stress hormones.
One solution to depression is better nutrition and less drugs, but
acceptance of this idea needs a change of thinking.
St. John's Wort - alters brain chemistry and improves your mood and
depression. Although natural it is so strong it should not be used
alongside medication. Consult a doctor before doing so. Generally
confirmed as quite effective in treating depression.
Recent studies indicate that a specific extract of Hypericum perforatum
was as effective as prescription antidepressants and had far fewer side
effects (thus available without a prescription for the treatment of mild to
moderate depression) and costs a lot less — about 25 cents a day.
Exercise improves sleep, and improves your energy level. Exercise
maintains physical health and controls weight, it also helps you to look
and feel good which improves your self-esteem. It also helps increase
endorphins in your brain which actually give you a boost in happiness.
A few small studies even hint that, in cases of mild to moderate
depression, exercise may be as effective as standard therapies.
Doctors caution that exercise is not a substitute for good medical care,
however, but should be used in addition to other treatment.
Omega 3 fish oils -The Inuits have a very low rate of heart disease.
Why? Simple, they eat fish. The American Heart Association advises
everyone to eat at least two 3-ounce servings of fatty fish every week.
Doctors can confirm the connection between Omega - 3 oils and
depression. Children suffering from depression can also be helped by
Omega-3 oils and so feed your children fish!
The B-complex vitamins are essential to mental and emotional well-
being. B vitamins are destroyed by alcohol, refined sugars, nicotine,
and caffeine so it is likely that many people may be lacking in these.
Vitamin B1 (thiamine):
The brain uses this vitamin to help convert glucose, or blood sugar, into
fuel, and without it the brain rapidly runs out of energy
This can lead to fatigue, depression, irritability, anxiety, and even
thoughts of suicide. Memory problems, loss of appetite, insomnia, and
gastrointestinal disorders are some of the problems caused by a
deficiency of B1. Eating refined carbohydrates, like simple sugars,
drains the body's B1 supply.
Vitamin B3 (niacin): A deficiency of this vitamin can cause Pellagra-
resulting in psychosis and dementia. Deficiencies of vitamin B3 can also
cause agitation and anxiety, as well as mental and physical slowness.
Vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid): Symptoms of deficiency include fatigue,
chronic stress, and depression. Vitamin B5 is vital for hormone
formation and the uptake of amino acids and the brain chemical
acetylcholine, which combine to prevent certain types of depression.
Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine): This vitamin is necessary in the manufacture of
serotonin, melatonin and dopamine. Vitamin B6 deficiencies are very
rare but can cause damaged immunity, skin lesions, and mental
confusion. Alcoholics, patients with kidney failure, and women using oral
contraceptives are at risk of such a deficiency. MAOIs may also lead to
a shortage of this vitamin. Many doctors believe that most diets do not
contain enough of this vitamin.
Vitamin B12: deficiency leads to a problem known as pernicious anemia.
This disorder can cause mood swings, paranoia, irritability, confusion,
dementia, hallucinations, or mania, eventually followed by appetite loss,
dizziness, weakness, shortage of breath, heart palpitations, diarrhea,
and tingling sensations in the extremities. Deficiencies develop slowly,
because the body stores a three- to five-year supply in the liver. Older
people are more at risk of B12 deficiencies.
There are many other natural cures for depression and these include:
Exposure to sunshine
So don't let yourself be confined to standard treatments but ask for
advice about natural cures and this way you will be helping yourself to
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Learn How to Treat Depression FAQ, Useful Links, Downloads
Depression in Women:
According to the National Mental Health Association:
Approximately 12 million women in the United States experience
clinical depression each year.
About one in every eight women can expect to develop clinical
depression during their lifetime.
Causes of Depression in Women:
Women are about twice as likely as men to suffer from
depression. This two-to-one difference persists across racial,
ethnic, and economic divides. In fact, this gender difference in
rates of depression is found in most countries around the world.
There are a number of theories which attempt to explain the
higher incidence of depression in women. Many factors have
been implicated, including biological, psychological, and social
Biological Causes of Depression in Women:
Premenstrual problems - Hormonal fluctuations during the
menstrual cycle can cause the familiar symptoms of
premenstrual syndrome (PMS), such as bloating, irritability,
fatigue, and emotional reactivity. For many women, PMS is mild.
But for some women, symptoms are severe enough to disrupt
their lives and a diagnosis of premenstrual dysphoric disorder
(PMDD) is made.
Pregnancy and infertility - The many hormonal changes that
occur during pregnancy can contribute to depression,
particularly in women already at high risk. Other issues relating
to pregnancy such as miscarriage, unwanted pregnancy, and
infertility can also play a role in depression.
Postpartum depression - Many new mothers experience the
“baby blues.” This is a normal reaction that tends to subside
within a few weeks. However, some women experience severe,
lasting depression. This condition is known as postpartum
depression. Postpartum depression is believed to be
influenced, at least in part, by hormonal fluctuations.
Perimenopause and menopause - Women may be at increased
risk for depression during perimenopause, the stage leading to
menopause when reproductive hormones rapidly fluctuate.
Women with past histories of depression are at an increased
risk of depression during menopause as well.
Social and cultural causes of depression in Women:
Role strain - Women often suffer from role strain over
conflicting and overwhelming responsibilities in their life. The
more roles a woman is expected to play (mother, wife, working
woman), the more vulnerable she is to role strain and
subsequent stress and depression. Depression is more common
in women who receive little help with housework and child care.
Single mothers are particularly at risk. Research indicates that
single mothers are three times more likely than married mothers
to experience an episode of major depression.
Unequal power and status - Women’s relative lack of power and
status in our society may lead to feelings of helplessness. This
sense of helplessness puts women at greater risk for
depression. These feelings may be provoked by discrimination
in the workplace leading to underemployment or unemployment.
Low socioeconomic status is a risk factor for major depression.
Another contributing factor is society’s emphasis on youth,
beauty, and thinness in women, traits which to a large extent are
out of their control.
Sexual and physical abuse - Sexual and physical abuse may play
a role in depression in women. Girls are much more likely to be
sexually abused than boys, and researchers have found that
sexual abuse in childhood puts one at increased risk for
depression in adulthood. Higher rates of depression are also
found among victims of rape, a crime almost exclusively
committed against women. Other common forms of abuse,
including physical abuse and sexual harassment, may also
contribute to depression.
Relationship dissatisfaction - While rates of depression are
lower for the married than for the single and divorced, the
benefits of marriage and its general contribution to well-being
are greater for men than for women. Furthermore, the benefits
disappear entirely for women whose marital satisfaction is low.
Lack of intimacy and marital strife are linked to depression in
Poverty - Poverty is more common among women than men.
Single mothers have the highest rates of poverty across all
demographic groups. Poverty is a severe, chronic stressor than
can lead to depression.
Psychological Causes of Depression in Women:
Coping mechanisms - Women are more likely to ruminate when
they are depressed. This includes crying to relieve emotional
tension, trying to figure out why you’re depressed, and talking to
your friends about your depression. However, rumination has
been found to maintain depression and even make it worse.
Men, on the other hand, tend to distract themselves when they
are depressed. Unlike rumination, distraction can reduce
Stress response - According to Psychology Today, women are
more likely than men to develop depression under lower levels
of stress. Furthermore, the female physiological response to
stress is different. Women produce more stress hormones than
men do, and the female sex hormone progesterone prevents
the stress hormone system from turning itself off as it does in
Puberty and body image - The gender difference in depression
begins in adolescence. The emergence of sex differences
during puberty likely plays a role. Some researchers point to
body dissatisfaction, which increases in girls during the sexual
development of puberty. Body image is closely linked to self-
esteem in women, and low self-esteem is a risk factor for
Risk Factors for Depression in Women:
Family history of mood disorders
Personal past history of mood disorders in early reproductive
Loss of a parent before the age of 10 years
Childhood history of physical or sexual abuse
Use of an oral contraceptive, especially one with a high
Use of gonadotropin stimulants as part of infertility treatment
Persistent psychosocial stressors (e.g., loss of job)
Loss of social support system or the threat of such a loss
Source: American Academy of Family Physicians
Treating Depression in Women:
For the most part, women suffering from depression receive the
same types of treatment as everyone else. The main treatment
approaches are psychotherapy and antidepressant therapy.
Diagnosis of depression involves a psychological/physical
history and evaluation. According to the American Psychiatric
Association, if a person experiences a loss of interest in the
things they once enjoyed and are feeling sad, blue, or down in
the dumps for at least two (2) weeks, and are experiencing at
least five (5) of the other symptoms of depression, they may
have major depression. If a person experiences euphoria,
irritability, or a feeling of being "high" with four (4) other
symptoms of mania for at least one (1) week, they may have
bipolar disorder. In addition to listing the symptoms, the doctor
will also ask when the symptoms began, how long they have
lasted, how severe they are, whether the individual has had
them before, and if so, whether or not they were treated and
what treatment was received, as well as whether or not other
family members have had these symptoms. Furthermore, a
mental status examination will be done to determine if speech,
thought patterns or memory have been affected. The physical
examination will either diagnosis and/or rule out any medical
conditions (such as thyroid disease, cancers or neurologic
diseases) that could be causing the depression.
Treatment of depression usually involves medication,
psychotherapy or a combination of both. Other treatments may
include electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), light therapy and
There are more than 20 antidepressant drugs currently
available. Antidepressants correct the chemical imbalance in the
brain. Because a variety of drugs target different
neurotransmitters and imbalances of these neurotransmitters
can vary from patient to patient, some drugs may be more
effective than others for any individual. Sometimes a
combination of drugs is best. There are four (4) groups of
antidepressant medications most commonly used to treat
1. Tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs), which include: amitriptyline
(Elavil) imipramine (Trofanil,Janimine) nortryptyline (Pamelor)
despiramine (Norpramin) TCAs work by slowing the rate at which
neurotransmitters (chemical messengers) re-enter brain cells.
This increases the concentration of the neurotransmitters in the
central nervous system which relieves depression.
2. Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) include phenelzine
(Nardil) and tranylcypromine (Parnate). MAO is an enzyme
responsible for breaking down certain neurotransmitters in the
brain. MAOIs inhibit this enzyme and restore more normal mood
3. Lithium carbonates, including Eskalith and Lithobid. Lithium
reduces excessive nerve activity in the brain by altering the
chemical balance within certain nerve cells. This drug has been
used to improve the benefit of SSRIs and alone is effective in
treating bipolar disorder.
4. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) include:
fluoxetine (Prozac) fluvoxamine (Luvox) paroxetine (Paxil)
sertraline (Zoloft) citalopram (Celexa) escitalopram oxalate
(Lexapro) SSRIs act specifically on serotonin, making it more
available for nerve cells, thus easing the transmission of
messages without disrupting the chemistry of the brain. Two
other antidepressants that affect two neurotransmitters,
serotonin and norepinephrine, are venlafaxine (Effexor) and
Another of the newer antidepressants, bupropion (Wellbutrin), is
chemically unrelated to the other antidepressants. It has more
effect on norepinephrine and dopamine than on serotonin.
Medication usually produces a marked improvement by six
weeks, but may require up to 12 weeks for full effect.
Psychotherapy involves talking to family doctor, counselor,
psychiatrist or therapist about things that are occurring in a
person's life. The aim of psychotherapy is to remove all
symptoms of depression and return a person to a normal life.
There are three psychotherapies commonly used to treat
depression: behavioral therapy, cognitive therapy or
interpersonal therapy. Behavioral therapy focuses on current
behaviors, cognitive therapy focuses on thoughts and thinking
patterns, and interpersonal therapy focuses on current
relationships. Although psychotherapy may begin to work right
away, it may take eight to 10 weeks to show a full effect for some
people. Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), also called
electroshock treatment, is used for severely depressed patients
and/or those who have not responded to antidepressant
medication and/or psychotherapy. During this therapy, an
electric current travels through electrodes placed on the
temples, causing a generalized shock that produces biochemical
changes in the brain. Light Therapy: In light therapy, a special
kind of light called a broad-spectrum light, is used to give
people the effect of having a few extra hours of daylight each
day. Light therapy is helpful in treating people with seasonal
affective disorder (SAD). SAD is a serious depression that recurs
each year at the same time, starting in fall or winter and ending
During the treatment process try these helpful tips:
Do not set difficult goals or take on a great deal of responsibility.
Break large tasks into small ones, set priorities, and do what you
Try to be with other people.
Participate in activities that make you feel better.
Do not overdo it or become upset if the treatment does not work
Do not make major life decisions.
Do not expect to snap out of depression.
Do not expect too much of the depressed person.