Clinical depression is more than just the common sadness that everyone experiences. It is a medical illness that affects your emotions, cognition, and action. It can also affect you physically.
The symptoms of depression can include the following and can range from mild to severe:
- Having a depressed mood
- Loss of interest in activities that you once enjoyed
- Appetite changes
- Trouble sleeping or sleeping too much
- Increase in restless activity or slowed movements and speech
- Feelings of worthlessness
- Difficulty thinking, concentrating, or making decisions
- Thoughts of death or suicide
The symptoms of depression must last at least two weeks for a diagnosis of clinical depression. Luckily, depression nowadays can be treated effectively through a variety of methods.
Medications for Depression
There are many types of medications for depression. They are called antidepressants. Antidepressants treat depression by increasing the level of brain chemicals called neurotransmitters or increasing their availability. It is believed that these chemicals can help regulate brain circuits that affect emotions.
The major kinds of antidepressants fall into the following groups:
These were some of the first drugs used to treat depression. They directly affect the levels of the neurotransmitters norepinephrine and serotonin. Since these drugs cause a lot of side effects, they are not the first choice for the current care of depression.
Monoamine oxidase inhibitors
These were also an early form of treatment for depression. These work well in patients who have not been successfully treated with other forms of antidepressants. They are also not the first option taken by doctors because they interact with many foods and drugs.
Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors
These are a newer form of antidepressant medication. They work by allowing the neurotransmitter serotonin to remain in the synapse between neurons for a longer period of time.
Serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors
These are also a newer form of antidepressant. They work by preventing reuptake of norepinephrine and serotonin in the synapse as well.
Supplements for Depression
There are many products on the market that are dietary supplements that are claimed to boost mood and alleviate depression. You always need to check the evidence that supports the action of these supplements. Many of them have not been studied yet or haven’t been studied very well. The following are a few supplements that are currently being marketed:
The research on omega-3s and depression is still developing. One study in 2009 reported that, when women consumed more omega-3s and oily fish, their depression symptoms were diminished. However, another study done on coronary heart disease patients showed that combining antidepressants with an omega-3 supplement did not improve their depression levels.
It has been discovered that many people who have depression symptoms are low in certain B-complex vitamins. If you supplement with vitamins B6 and B3, then it will help convert the amino acid tryptophan into serotonin.
This substance is another natural way that you can increase serotonin levels. 5-HTP is converted into serotonin in the body. The advantage of using a substance like this one is that you don’t get the side effects of an antidepressant.
Therapy for Depression
There are many types of talk therapy that can help depression. In cases of severe depression, therapy may not work by itself. However, it can work well in combination with another treatment, such as medication. Here are a few types of therapy that may be effective:
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
This kind of therapy focuses on how your thoughts and behaviors contribute to your depression. In this therapy you can learn new ways to react to situations and challenge your preconceptions.
This form of therapy concentrates on how your relationships with others play a role in your depression. It concentrates on practical issues.
In this traditional form of therapy, your therapist will help you figure out your behavior patterns and motivations that contribute to your depression. These may be subconscious. You will also focus on traumas from your childhood that may be adding to your depression.
If you have depression that has not responded to other forms of therapy, then you may wish to try electroconvulsive therapy or ECT. In ECT, electrodes are placed on the patient’s scalp, and an electric current is run through the patient’s brain. The current causes a small seizure within the brain. ECT has a very good rate of success on treatment-resistant depression.
Lifestyle Changes and Depression
To treat depression effectively, you need to do more than just take your medication and go to therapy. You need to insure that you are taking good care of both your body and your mind. The following are some ways that you can improve your lifestyle to help treat your depression:
Diet for Depression
What you put into your body in the way of food affects the health of your body and mind. You need to avoid foods that are high in refined sugar and saturated fats. When you begin to include healthy foods, you should include the following:
- Fatty acids – Omega-3s and omega-6s are important ones. They can be found in fish, nuts, fruits and vegetables, and olive oil.
- Amino acids – The neurotransmitters are made of amino acids. You can get them in your diet from foods such as meat, dairy products, and certain fruits and vegetables.
- Complex carbohydrates – Some research shows that carbohydrate consumption can stimulate the production of serotonin. Carbs also help the body absorb the amino acid tryptophan. Complex carbohydrates are present in whole grains, legumes, some vegetables, and some fruits.
Exercise can help you produce natural antidepressants in your body. Endorphins are one of these substances. Research has shown that exercise reduces stress, improves mood, boosts self-esteem, and helps with healthy sleep patterns.
Losing weight is not only good for self-esteem. It helps both keep your body and mind in good condition.
Meditation can help alleviate the stress and anxiety that many times accompany depression. It can help calm the mind also to help with healthy sleeping patterns.
The fatigue that comes from a lack of sleep can add to the symptoms of depression. Therefore, you need to always make sure that you get the proper amount of restful sleep.
Stress can also help compound depression. You can help combat stress with calming, soothing experiences. Some ideas to consider are the following:
- Watch a good movie
- Read a good book
- Take up a new hobby
- Listen to music
- Start a journal
Long-term clinical depression can be debilitating. However, nowadays there are many treatments available to address the condition. New medications are coming out all the time that are treating depression more completely and with fewer side effects. ECT is an effective way to treat depression that is misunderstood by the public at large. The treatment has been refined and improved over the years and has few side effects. Finally, lifestyle changes are necessary to ensure that you remain in good physical and mental condition.