Depression is a mood disorder characterized by a pervasive sense of sadness and hopelessness, and inability to enjoy life. Symptoms can include, but are not limited to: fatigue, irritability, crying spells, sleep disorders, forgetfulness, anxiety, difficulty concentrating, and thoughts of death or suicide or suicide attempts. People dealing with depression need to know that recovery is possible and that it is more than a case of the “blues” that they can shake with willpower, as well-meaning friends or relatives may suggest. Depression is a real disease.
Anyone can suffer from depression, though women tend to get it more than men. In children, the rates are similar between the sexes. Those with a family history of depression are more likely to have it. Severity can range from situational depression, which is caused by a stressful life event; to dysthymia, a mild but long-lasting form of depression; to major or clinical depression. There is also seasonal depression that occurs when exposure to natural light is limited, postpartum and premenstrual depression that occurs due to hormonal changes, and other less common forms.
The cause of moderate to severe depression is now widely agreed to be biochemical imbalances in the brain. While very mild or situational periods of depression may resolve on their own, most cases require some kind of intervention. Traditionally, modern psychiatry offered only talk therapy and medications with severe side effects for sufferers. Since the discovery of serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI’s) like fluoxetine (Prozac) in the 1980’s, many people have found relief from the symptoms of depression.
But with society leaning much more toward “greener” lifestyles, holistic methods of health are more popular than ever. There are several tried-and-true herbal remedies for depression. St. John’s wort, for example, has been used extensively in Europe for decades, prescribed by doctors and psychiatrists for their patients suffering from depression. Study after study – over twenty – have proven its effectiveness. Gingko biloba also helps with depression by increasing blood flow to the brain, which increases mood and memory.
Other herbal remedies for depression can be used to alleviate some of the symptoms of depression that can greatly affect one’s quality of life. Valerian root, for example, can help promote the high-quality sleep that is so often elusive when depression hits.
The importance of a healthy diet and the benefits of exercise in maintaining and improving health can never be overemphasized. In addition to promoting overall fitness and endurance, exercise increases production of the body’s “feel good” hormones, which elevate mood. A balanced diet containing omega-3 fatty acids, B vitamins and other essential vitamins and minerals can improve mood and alleviate depression.
Untreated depression can be devastating to individuals and their loved ones. But there is help available that can lift the veil of depression and allow the sun to shine in again.