Everybody gets “The Blues” now and then, it’s perfectly natural and usually will fade, eventually being replaced with good feelings once again. But for millions of adults, teens and even children; clinical depression is not something that they will simply “snap out of”. Clinical depression is a serious disorder, in fact, it is the number one leading cause of death among teenagers – due to suicide.
True depression can be quite debilitating. It affects mood, sleep, eating, it can be painful for the sufferer and has a devastating effect on families.
Many people with depression never seek treatment, either because they are unable to do so in their present state of mind or their loved ones do not recognize the signs and symptoms of a severe depressive disorder. This is unfortunate, because with the wealth of treatment options available today for depression, most people can and do get better with treatment.
How Do I Recognize the Signs of Depression?
The signs and symptoms of depression can be as varied as the people suffering them. This list is by no means comprehensive, and some people with depression may not exhibit all of these symptoms, but generally, experts agree the things to look for are:
- Feelings of persistent sadness, anxiety, or feeling “empty”
- Pessimistic feelings, hopelessness
- Low self–esteem, persistent guilt, or feelings of worthlessness
- High Irritability, restlessness, aggressive behavior
- Lack of interest in hobbies or activities once pleasurable
- Loss of libido
- Chronic fatigue and lack of energy
- Memory loss, difficulty concentrating, indecisiveness
- Disruption of sleep patterns
- Eating changes, from loss of appetite to over-eating
- Suicidal thinking, suicide attempts
- Pains, cramps, headaches, with an unknown cause that do not cease even with treatment
You DO NOT Have to Take Drugs to Treat Depression
Many people also do not seek treatment for depression, because they are hesitant to live their lives on antidepressants.
For those who fear the use of anti-depressant medications for themselves or their loved ones, there are alternative therapies available for the treatment of depression. Many herbal and nutritional supplements have the same effect of returning the levels of neurotransmitters to proper balance, without the harmful side effects of drugs. For example, herbs and stress reduction techniques of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) including acupuncture and Chi Gong have been used to successfully treat people with depression. When combined with talk therapy, these approaches can be just as effective in treating depression as a combination of talk therapy and western prescription drugs. However, it is recommended before starting any regimen of herbal therapy or alternative practice, you seek the advice of your physician or healthcare provider.
The idea that depression can be the result of “negative forces” and negative influences both physical and emotional is often overlooked by traditional medicine. The approach taken by practitioners of alternative and complimentary medicine take into account the body’s own natural ability to overcome these influences.
Herbal and Nutritional Supplementation to Treat Depression
What modern science refers to as neurotransmitters and hormonal imbalances, the practitioner of TCM, for example, calls imbalances or blockages of Qi. Interestingly enough the herbal supplements and manipulative techniques used by TCM practitioners affect the same metabolic pathways as anti-depressant medications, without the toxic side effects. St. John’s Wort, for example, acts in part by increasing the activity of serotonin and norepinephrine. It has been used for centuries in herbal medicinal traditions worldwide. It has been approved by Germany’s Commission E, that country’s equivalent of the FDA, as a treatment for depression, and in Europe today, it is used extensively to treat mild to moderate depression.
Like so called modern medicine, alternative practice accepts that depression and mental disease is at its root the result of a biochemical process. The difference is that alternative practices take a different and some would say safer, certainly a more holistic approach, to bringing that biochemistry back into the “normal” ranges. In addition to St. John’s Wort, another natural approach to treating depression is to supplement with the amino acids GABA and 5-HTP. Both of these are neurotransmitters that stimulate the production of serotonin, the chemical in the brain most linked to mood. In studies supplementation with GABA, gamma-aminobutyric acid, has been shown to reduce stress and anxiety. As anxiety is often a precursor to or concurrent with depression, formulas containing GABA may help ease some of the symptoms of depression.
5-HTP, 5-hydroxytryptophan has been more directly linked to treatment for depression. A direct double-blind research study compared taking 5-HTP with the prescription anti-depressant fluvoxamine, and found the amino acid equally effective in reducing depressive symptoms. A recent article in the medical journal Neuropsychobiology, sums up the current research into the effectiveness of 5-HTP, by stating: “Of the 17 reviewed studies, 13 confirm that 5-HTP has true antidepressant properties.”
Changes in diet along with herbs and nutritional supplementation with vitamins, minerals and amino acids, have been shown in some cases to reduce the severity of depressive symptoms. Such dietary changes and supplementation often do result in an improvement in general well-being.
Finally, there are those who would argue that depression could be caused by the toxic environment many of us are exposed to on a daily basis. Therefore making some dietary changes and adopting an organic lifestyle that minimizes one’s exposure to chemicals and toxins in foods and other products can improve physical as well as mental health.