Depression is a mental health disorder characterised by persistently depressed mood or loss of interest in activities, causing significant impairment in daily life, When you are depressed it often feels like nothing in this world can make you feel better. Depression can drain your energy, leaving you feeling tired and empty. Lack of energy, low self-esteem and dwindling excitement are some symptoms of depression. Even though depression is a mental disorder, it is a very common one. In a recent study, it was found that 6.7 per cent of the American population has had at least one major depressive episode in a given year. Depression is treatable, but if left untreated it can lead to serious health complications, including putting your life at risk. Effective treatments through therapy, medication, diet and exercise can help you overcome depression.
Types of depression
Source- Beyond blue
There are different types of depressive disorders. Symptoms can range from relatively minor (but still disabling) through to very severe, so it’s helpful to be aware of the range of conditions and their specific symptoms.
Major depression is sometimes called major depressive disorder, clinical depression, unipolar depression or simply ‘depression’. It involves low mood and/or loss of interest and pleasure in usual activities, as well as other symptoms. The symptoms are experienced most days and last for at least two weeks. Symptoms of depression interfere with all areas of a person’s life, including work and social relationships. Depression can be described as mild, moderate or severe; melancholic or psychotic (see below).
This is the term used to describe a severe form of depression where many of the physical symptoms of depression are present. One of the major changes is that the person starts to move more slowly. They’re also more likely to have a depressing mood that is characterised by complete loss of pleasure in everything, or almost everything.
Sometimes people with a depressive disorder can lose touch with reality and experience psychosis. This can involve hallucinations (seeing or hearing things that aren’t there) or delusions (false beliefs that aren’t shared by others), such as believing they are bad or evil, or that they’re being watched or followed. They can also be paranoid, feeling as though everyone is against them or that they are the cause of illness or bad events occurring around them.
Antenatal and postnatal depression
Women are at an increased risk of depression during pregnancy (known as the antenatal or prenatal period) and in the year following childbirth (known as the postnatal period). You may also come across the term ‘perinatal’, which describes the period covered by pregnancy and the first year after the baby’s birth.
The causes of depression at this time can be complex and are often the result of a combination of factors. In the days immediately following birth, many women experience the ‘baby blues’ which is a common condition related to hormonal changes and affects up to 80 per cent of women. The ‘baby blues’, or general stress adjusting to pregnancy and/or a new baby, are common experiences, but are different from depression. Depression is longer lasting and can affect not only the mother, but her relationship with her baby, the child’s development, the mother’s relationship with her partner and with other members of the family.
Almost 10 per cent of women will experience depression during pregnancy. This increases to 16 per cent in the first three months after having a baby.
Bipolar disorder used to be known as ‘manic depression’ because the person experiences periods of depression and periods of mania, with periods of normal mood in between.
Mania is like the opposite of depression and can vary in intensity – symptoms include feeling great, having lots of energy, having racing thoughts and little need for sleep, talking quickly, having difficulty focusing on tasks, and feeling frustrated and irritable. This is not just a fleeting experience. Sometimes the person loses touch with reality and has episodes of psychosis. Experiencing psychosis involves hallucinations (seeing or hearing something that is not there) or having delusions (e.g. the person believing he or she has superpowers).
Bipolar disorder seems to be most closely linked to family history. Stress and conflict can trigger episodes for people with this condition and it’s not uncommon for bipolar disorder to be misdiagnosed as depression, alcohol or drug abuse, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or schizophrenia.
Diagnosis depends on the person having had an episode of mania and, unless observed, this can be hard to pick. It is not uncommon for people to go for years before receiving an accurate diagnosis of bipolar disorder. If you’re experiencing highs and lows, it’s helpful to make this clear to your doctor or treating health professional. Bipolar disorder affects approximately 2 per cent of the population.
Cyclothymic disorder is often described as a milder form of bipolar disorder. The person experiences chronic fluctuating moods over at least two years, involving periods of hypomania (a mild to moderate level of mania) and periods of depressive symptoms, with very short periods (no more than two months) of normality between. The duration of the symptoms are shorter, less severe and not as regular, and therefore don’t fit the criteria of bipolar disorder or major depression.
The symptoms of dysthymia are similar to those of major depression but are less severe. However, in the case of dysthymia, symptoms last longer. A person has to have this milder depression for more than two years to be diagnosed with dysthymia.
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD)
SAD is a mood disorder that has a seasonal pattern. The cause of the disorder is unclear, but it’s thought to be related to the variation in light exposure in different seasons. It’s characterised by mood disturbances (either period of depression or mania) that begin and end in a particular season. Depression which starts in winter and subsides when the season ends is the most common. It’s usually diagnosed after the person has had the same symptoms during winter for a couple of years. People with SAD depression are more likely to experience a lack of energy, sleep too much, overeat, gain weight and crave for carbohydrates. SAD is very rare in Australia and more likely to be found in countries with shorter days and longer periods of darkness, such as in the cold climate areas of the Northern Hemisphere.
SYMPTOMS OF DEPRESSION
- not going out anymore
- not getting things done at work/school
- withdrawing from close family and friends
- relying on alcohol and sedatives
- not doing usual enjoyable activities
- unable to concentrate
- lacking in confidence
- ‘I’m a failure.’
- ‘It’s my fault.’
- ‘Nothing good ever happens to me.’
- ‘I’m worthless.’
- ‘Life’s not worth living.’
- ‘People would be better off without me.’
- tired all the time
- sick and run down
- headaches and muscle pains
- churning gut
- sleep problems
- loss or change of appetite
- significant weight loss or gain
10 Natural Depression Treatments
These tips can help you feel better — starting right now.
1. Get in a routine. If you’re depressed, you need a routine, says Ian Cook, MD. He’s a psychiatrist and director of the Depression Research and Clinic Program at UCLA.
Depression can strip away the structure from your life. One day melts into the next. Setting a gentle daily schedule can help you get back on track.
2.Set goals. When you’re depressed, you may feel like you can’t accomplish anything. That makes you feel worse about yourself. To push back, set daily goals for yourself.
“Start very small,” Cook says. “Make your goal something that you can succeed at, like doing the dishes every other day.”
As you start to feel better, you can add more challenging daily goals.
3. Exercise. It temporarily boosts feel-good chemicals called endorphins. It may also have long-term benefits for people with depression. Regular exercise seems to encourage the brain to rewire itself in positive ways, Cook says.
How much exercise do you need? You don’t need to run marathons to get a benefit. Just walking a few times a week can help.
4. Eat healthy. There is no magic diet that fixes depression. It’s a good idea to watch what you eat, though. If depression tends to make you overeat, getting in control of your eating will help you feel better.
Although nothing is definitive, Cook says there’s evidence that foods with omega-3 fatty acids (such as salmon and tuna) and folic acid (such as spinach and avocado) could help ease depression.
5. Get enough sleep. Depression can make it hard to get enough shut-eye, and too little sleep can make depression worse.
What can you do? Start by making some changes to your lifestyle. Go to bed and get up at the same time every day. Try not to nap. Take all the distractions out of your bedroom — no computer and no TV. In time, you may find your sleep improves.
If you’re not up to full-time school or work, that’s fine. Think about part-time. If that seems like too much, consider volunteer work.
7. Challenge negative thoughts. In your fight against depression, a lot of the work is mental — changing how you think. When you’re depressed, you leap to the worst possible conclusions.
The next time you’re feeling terrible about yourself, use logic as a natural depression treatment. You might feel like no one likes you, but is there real evidence for that? You might feel like the most worthless person on the planet, but is that really likely? It takes practice, but in time you can beat back those negative thoughts before they get out of control.
8. Check with your doctor before using supplements. “There’s promising evidence for certain supplements for depression,” Cook says. Those include fish oil, folic acid, and SAMe. But more research needs to be done before we’ll know for sure. Always check with your doctor before starting any supplement, especially if you’re already taking medications.
9. Do something new. When you’re depressed, you’re in a rut. Push yourself to do something different. Go to a museum. Pick up a used book and read it on a park bench. Volunteer at a soup kitchen. Take a language class.
“When we challenge ourselves to do something different, there are chemical changes in the brain,” Cook says. “Trying something new alters the levels of [the brain chemical] dopamine, which is associated with pleasure, enjoyment, and learning.”
10. Try to have fun. If you’re depressed, make time for things you enjoy. What if nothing seems fun anymore? “That’s just a symptom of depression,” Cook says. You have to keep trying anyway.
As strange as it might sound, you have to work at having fun. Plan things you used to enjoy, even if they feel like a chore. Keep going to the movies. Keep going out with friends for dinner.