Complementary Therapists > Medical Conditions > Depression
What is Depression?
Depression is a medical condition that affects the whole person - both mind and body. Almost everybody gets depressed at some time in their lives however this is markedly different from clinical depression.
A depressive disorder that is left untreated can last for prolonged periods, perhaps even for years. It is not a sign of personal weakness and it is unlikely that it can be willed away.
Clinical depression is much more severe that the type of depression that we experience after a life event such as a death in the family. It is usually accompanied by severe feelings of sadness, melancholy, negative emotions, helplessness, and an inability to cope with normal day to day living.
As many as one in five people will suffer from depression during their lives. It can afflict anyone at any age and it does not recognise social barriers or classes.
Early treatment is vital and a combination of your own efforts, and appropriate medication can produce much better outcomes than either approach on its own.
Types of Depression
There are many types of depression but they are generally classified into three main orders:
This is also known as Major Depressive Disorder or Major Depression. This is characterised by bouts that last for most of the day, every day for a minimum of a fortnight. The sufferer will be obviously in a depressed state and / or is totally disinterested in most fun or pleasant activities. These symptoms will be accompanied by at least four other of the following characteristics; unexplained weight loss or gain, loss of appetite, sleeping problems, agitated movement or torpor, feelings of guilt or worthlessness, unusually poor concentration, indecisiveness, preoccupation with death or suicide.
This type of depression is also known as Dysthymia. This is characterised by a period of two years or more where the sufferer is in an almost permanent depressed mood. It is also accompanied by two or more symptoms; for at least 2 years accompanied by at least two (or more) of the following; loss of, or increase in, appetite, sleeping problems, fatigue, lack of energy, low self-esteem, unusually poor concentration, indecisiveness, sense of hopelessness. Usually Dysthymic Disorder is described as having persistent but less severe depressive symptoms than Major Depression.
This condition is also known as Bipolar Disorder and is characterised by bouts of mania and depression. Sufferers may swing quickly between both states although the bouts of mania may be predominant. Manic episodes involve sustained periods of irrational elation or heightened irritability which lasts for more than seven days.
Manic Depressives will also suffer from at least three of the following symptoms; reduced sleep, constant talking, unusual inflation in self-esteem, racing mind, poor concentration, fidgeting, increase in goal-oriented activity, engaging in pleasurable behaviour to a possibly damaging level (for example promiscuity, extravagant or unnecessary expenditure).
In extreme cases Manic Depression can involve psychotic episodes including hallucinations and the sufferer may require hospitalisation.
Other Categories of Depression
What Causes Depression ?
Depression has a number of causes. Hereditary factors are known to be involved as depression - especially Bipolar Disorder (BPD) - does run in families. As not everyone with BPD genes does not develop the condition it is believed that environmental issues such as stress are contributory factors.
In many cases the cause of the depression can be attributed to a specific external event such as death of a loved one, loss of employment, serious financial problems etc. Many people experience such events and sufferer temporary depression without ever going on to develop severe symptoms. For others the external event may be the trigger for a genetic predisposition. People that are at a social or economic disadvantage to the general population may be more prone to depression.
Some depressions can be brought on by serious physical ailments or medical conditions. Cancer, heart disease, accidental, or otherwise, physical trauma, are all known to cause depression. This can in turn lead to a weakening in the body's immune system leading to to a vicious cycle.
Abuse of substances such as alcohol, drugs, solvents, so-called legal high substances available through head shops, are all known to cause depressive episodes.
Major depressive disorder is often associated with changes in brain structures or brain function.
Symptoms of Depression
Depression symptoms differ from person to person. Some people experience a deep and profound sense of sadness. Others become overwhelmed by a total sense of hopelessness up to the point where they might become suicidal. The full range of symptoms is very wide but the following are the more common symptoms of depression:
How to Prevent Depression
If you are prone to depression that is triggered by external circumstances or if you are simply interested in maintaining a healthy mental state there are steps that you can take.
Eating a healthy diet with the correct balance of the various food groups is important for good mental health. Avoid excessive amounts of fats, read meat, sugar, salt, and alcohol. At Complementary-Therapists.com we recommend the Anne Collins Diet for Life plan as an excellent and healthy eating plan.
Exercise helps to release endorphins which aid in eliminating stress, relaxes the body and helps promote healthy sleeping patterns. Aerobic gym workouts, swimming, jogging, long walks, yoga and pilates classes are all excellent forms of exercise.
Express Your Feelings to Others
Bottling up your emotions and feelings is very harmful to your mental health. Become comfortable at giving vent to your emotions and learn to talk over your problems with other people. Teach your children to do the same so that they learn from a young age to express themselves.
Think Positive Thoughts
Remember that nobody is perfect and everybody makes mistakes and everyone has things happen in their lives that didn't ask for and they don't want. Learn to make the best of whatever situation that you find yourself in at any given time. Strive to see the silver lining in every cloud and focus on that.
Learn to meditate. Daily meditation is a highly recommended means to cleanse the mind of negative feelings - psychic toxins - and to promote positive mental health.
Conventional treatments for depression include medication and psychotherapy.
Except in some of the more severe cases of depression and bipolar depression most medication prescribed in the treatment of depression is aimed at controlling the symptoms until the depressive episode subsides. Long term use of medication in these cases is not advised however for the treatment of episodes that are event-specific e.g. a death in the family such medication may have a role to play. However sustained use of prescribed medicines may lead to an unhealthy dependence.
For some forms of depression such as Bipolar Disorder medication is used to address a chemical imbalance in the body. Lithium is a traditional medication that is prescribed in such circumstances. It is important to follow the precise instruction of your doctor and DO NOT stop taking your medication even if you are feeling well again. Some medications must be reduced gradually over time to allow your body to acclimatise. It is also vital not mix medications unless approved by your doctor.
Professional psychotherapy can help in the treatment of depression by creating a safe environment for the sufferer to articulate their innermost feelings and emotions without being judged. Cognitive therapy helps to eradicate negative thoughts and feelings that have been bottle up over time. It helps to sort out the trivial issues from the really important ones. Problem solving of behavioural therapy can help the sufferer to make changes in his or her life to aspects that are contributing to the episodes of depression. If the psychotherapist does not reach this later stage in the therapy then the underlying and causative issues may remain unresolved
How to Cure Depression
There is no medical cure for depression. Prevention measures and treatment of the condition are the most realistic avenues for many people. Conventional medicine has made some advances in diagnosing the causes of, and inn treating the symptoms of depression however very many people are now turning to non-chemical complementary and alternative treatments. Such therapies include Reiki, Kinesiology, CranioSacral, and Homeopathy. If you have tried conventional methods without finding a resolution for your depression there are a number of complementary therapists listed on this site that may have the solution to your difficulties.
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