We all remember those Zoloft commercials, “depression hurts, Zoloft can help” and they have that very sad looking circle be bopping along…The other day I was reading some articles about how this or that can cure depression. It also happened that I was in a depressive (I have dysthmia) episode and I was talking to my husband about how much crap that is. Nothing can cure depression. Things can help it but there is no cure. In certain articles depression is viewed as a thing someone chooses, that it is just like any other sickness. One will get over it in a few days, it isn’t a big deal. Now, I believe everyone will experience the kind of “feeling blue depression” at one point in their life, but there is a difference between that and clinical depression or a form of depression where one needs to seek treatment.
First, let us start off with the different types of depression (Webmd and NIMH):
- Major Depressive Disorder
- Persistent Depressive Disorder, sometimes known as dysthmia
- Bipolar Disorder (though I view this as a different disease all together)
- Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
- Psychotic Depression
- Postpartum Depression
- Atypical Depression
*The first two are the major ones, the other ones develop under unique situations*
Today, I want to mainly focus on the first two because those are the most common and also seem to be the most misunderstood. According to the ADAA approx 40 million adults suffer from a form on an anxiety disorder while of that about 6.8 million adults suffer from GAD (generalized anxiety disorder). Major Depressive Disorder affects 14.8 million adults/year and 3.3 million adults suffer from Persistent Depressive Disorder/Dysthmia. It is also not unusual for a form of depression to have a co-existing disorder such as but not limited to: bipolar, eating disorders, PTSD, IBS, fibromyalgia, sleep issues, chronic pain, substance abuse or alcohol abuse, adult ADHD.
From facts let us move on to biologically what goes on:
We all know that it is a chemical imbalance, but what about the other biological factors? The limbic system (regulates emotions, sexual drives, stress responses), the hypothalmus (regulates temperature, appetites, and regulates the pituitary gland), and the hippocampus, all can get out of wack and mess with hormones and regulation. The neurotransmitters can also not transmit signals to parts of the brain correctly, again causing deregulation. All of this together, combined with certain genetics, can cause one to have depression. Also, when one experiences a traumatic event it can trigger a portion of the brain, possibly a part of the limbic system, to not function properly. For a more in depth look at depression please check out the NIMH website here
Medicine and therapy are the best way to manage depression. Since it is a chemical imbalance, we need the medicine to help us make those chemicals. There are natural ways to help depression but they do not fix the problem. It is important to understand that when articles are being published saying, “fix depression the natural way”, “your diet is causing depression”, “eat this and fix your depression”, etc…Now, I am very into natural medicine and herbs, I really don’t like to take medicine but there are times when it is needed. The list below are some natural aids that can help make your depressive days better. Again, like most treatment programs, what works for one does not work for another. It is also important to remember that it is very important to talk to a healthcare professional if you think you have any symptoms of depression or to find a program that works for you.
Natural Aids to help your Medicine and Treatment Programs
-I use this regularly in tea form. Of many things I have tried, this has really been beneficial to my medication. It is also called Tulsi. IAs tea you will find it as pure tulsi, or be blended with other herbs. Holy Basil also makes for a great tincture to put in water. For more info on tulsi click here
-Another aid I use regularly. Cardio is the most effective, but any form of exercise releases endorphins that can promote happy feelings. Ever heard of “runners high” or experienced it? Then you felt endorphins! just a minimum of 30 minutes can have major effects on depression.
-I still don’t know how I feel about this, though I do enjoy cashews. Research is still iffy but I figured it was worth mentioning. I haven’t felt instantly happier after eating cashews like I do with Tulsi, but I do love the nutrition of a cashew!
-An over the counter medicine, it has been available in the US since 1999 but has been studied in other countries. It is said to help parts of the brain and make more of certain bodily nutrients that we already make. For an investigative article click here
-I did not meditate till I started teacher training, and wow! I can definitely tell a difference on days I meditate and days I do not. I have also talked to some other friends who have depression or bi-polar and said meditating helped them a lot. One can just google depression and meditation and multiple scholarly articles come up.
-Acupuncture is a form of Traditional Chinese Medicine that uses special needles to open energy channels which can heal the body. I have also used acupuncture and it was amazing! Again, many people turn to this aid and have seen great improvements in their depression/anxiety. Here is another great overview acupuncture and depression.
-This is a nutrient that our body needs. Magnesium helps with the biochemical reactions that happen in our body. Taking magnesium, like holy basil, help alleviate the symptoms of stress. For more info on magnesium and the brain read this fascinating article.
-Last but not least the great and powerful YOGA! Yoga combines meditation and exercise. Yoga has been used for many many years to help individuals who have depression among other mental health issues. There are certain asanas in yoga along with certain breathing techniques that can calm one down and help the mind-body connection. Within the realm of yoga there are certain styles of yoga that can help even more than traditional Hatha yoga. Give yoga nidra or restorative yoga a try 🙂
Are there any other natural aids that you use that I forgot to mention?
How do you manage your depression?
ADAA/Anxiety and Depression Association of America
NIMH/National Institute of Mental Health