When I got into health care several years ago, I thought naively that I don’t want to work in mental health. By declaring this, I was of the mindset that I would not then have to treat people with depression. I did not want to feel down and hopeless like they did. Well guess what? If you work in health care it is likely up to half the people you are treating are suffering from some degree of depression. Both children and adult are suffering from depression at an alarming rate. Why is there an epidemic of depression?
Do you know someone who has depression?
Have you or someone in your family been diagnosed with depression? Even if we are dealing with depression in ourselves or our families, we may not know what it really is. Is it just feeling sad all the time? Why can’t people just snap out of it?
Depression is said to be the most widespread mental disorder. It affects women far more than men, and is particularly prevalent in teens.
What Causes Depression?
There are various opinions on what causes depression, and even the role of brain chemicals is debated. Generally, though, depression can be separated into two categories: circumstantial and clinical.
Circumstantial depression refers to feelings surrounding an event, such as a death in the family or having to sell one’s house and move. The circumstances that can cause depression are extremely numerous, from kids having trouble with friends at school to the elderly in a nursing home. Circumstantial depression is also highly individualized. Are more people suffering from depression due to our stressed out lives due to job, financial, health and other stressors? No doubt. Circumstantial depression can result in short or long term depression.
Clinical depression on the other hand defies circumstances and the depressed person may feel more depressed because he or she can’t find a reason for such dreadful feelings. Clinical depression may baffle those around the patient, too, because they can’t understand how a person could be depressed when his or her life seems to be going fine. This lack of understanding may make the patient’s depression worse.
Treatment approaches differ according to the type of depression the patient is experiencing as well as the individual’s personality and lifestyle. The conventional medical approach to treating depression involves medication and psychotherapy. Unfortunately many people that have been treated with this approach are still depressed. Why? Because the root cause of the depression has not been identified and can be very complex.
There are a lot of myths surrounding depression that, when explained, help people better understand the illness. For example:
* Isn’t depression just self-pity? – Depressed people may seem to be “wallowing” in their sadness, but it’s not willful self-pity. It’s a true medical illness, sources point out, that should be treated as such.
* Medication for depression is overkill, and just treats the symptoms – For those on the outside, so to speak, medication can seem like putting a Band-Aid on a massive wound. But often, medication is what the patient needs to feel good enough to seek help for the underlying root problem.
* Depression is not a “real” illness – Actually, it is; brain imaging studies have revealed how the actual chemical imbalances occur in the brain of a depressed person. It is considered physiological, even if the cause is circumstantial – the chemical imbalance may still be present regardless of the depression’s origin.
Depression can be affected not only by circumstances; genetics, personality, psychology, and biology may also play a role. Women are far more likely to be diagnosed with depression, indicating possible hormonal factors. Men, on the other hand, are more likely to succeed in suicide as a result of depression than women, although more women than men attempt suicide, sources report.
But what else can be causing your depression?
You have heard the saying, “you are what you eat”. Scientists are realizing just how true this is. Your gut is the epicenter to good health, this includes your mental health. Neurologist, Dr. David Perlmutter in his book, Grain Brain addresses this very subject. Your gut plays a vital role in the making and utilization of your neurotransmitters such as serotonin. Serotonin has a direct impact on mood, sleep and even your weight. If you are not consuming healthy foods rich in amino acids and B vitamins it is more difficult for your body to make the serotonin your brain has available to use.
Dr. Perlmutter puts the spotlight on how inflammation resulting from too many sugars, carbs, and grains play a big role in your mental health. This is not to say that genetics, stress, along with other body stressors don’t play a role as they most certainly can and do. However, starting with adequate nutrition through a healthy diet may not only help your mental health, but your overall health.
What if you have anxiety and depression?
Though depression can be due to many of things mentioned here, so to can anxiety. Many of those who suffer from depression are also suffering from anxiety. So the food you eat can actually help both. Trudy Scott, CN in here book, “The AntiAnxiety Food Solution: How the Foods You Eat Can Help You Calm Your Anxious Mind, Improve Your Mood and End Your Cravings”, an amazing job of explaining how food impacts your brain chemistry and emotions. She even goes so far to provide guidance on what type of diet can help support better emotional balance.
So whether you are depressed or anxious, it is important to take a hard look at what you are eating. Both Dr. David Perlmutter and Trudy Scott’s, CN books can help point you in the right direction. Not only that the right nutrition puts you in control and offers hope when you are feeling hopeless.