Have you noticed that you’re less interested in your favorite activities lately? Do you feel sad a lot of the time, and don’t know exactly why? Is it getting harder for you to concentrate – even on the simplest of things? If any of this sounds familiar, you’re definitely not alone. In fact, you may be suffering from clinical depression. Let’s take a closer look at this illness that affects almost two million Americans.
Have you noticed that you’re less interested in your favorite activities lately? Do you feel sad a lot of the time, and don’t know exactly why? Is it getting harder for you to concentrate – even on the simplest of things? Have your occasional feelings of being “down in the dumps” worsened into frequent bouts of seemingly inescapable hopelessness?
If any of the above scenarios sound familiar, you’re definitely not alone. In fact, you may be one of the ten percent of the nineteen million depressed Americans who have what is referred to as clinical depression. The more severe form of depression, clinical depression is an illness defined by symptoms including fatigue, persistent sadness, an inability to concentrate, loss of interest in regular activities, and thoughts of suicide.
My Grandpa suffered from clinical depression, and I can tell you first-hand – it’s life-changing. At the time he was diagnosed, the base of knowledge on depression was not as extensive as it is currently and he suffered a great deal as a result.
Thankfully, much more is now known about depression, its causes and ways to treat it. Actually, a number of drugs have been developed to treat depression over the past decade or so (you’ve most likely seen the commercials or advertisements). But do they really work? And can some cause more harm than good? Let’s take a look . . .
What Causes Depression?
Theories abound, but trauma and severe stress, such as the sudden or difficult passing of a loved one or a past history of drug abuse, could be a cause. For others, a family history of depression could make them more likely to become depressed as well. Another possible cause is a lack of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that affects the mood.
The Word on Anti-Depressants
Cases of depression are on the rise, and to combat this growing trend, anti-depressants are commonly prescribed. Some work by correcting chemical imbalances in the brain that affect how the nerves transmit information, thereby elevating mood. However, research published in the February 2008 issue of the journal PloS Medicine showed that antidepressants were no more effective than placebos for the majority of the people being studied.
What does this mean? For some, the idea of taking medication to improve depression may be just as helpful as taking an actual medication. It may also indicate that anti-depressions just aren’t as effective as previously believed.
If you are depressed, medications aren’t your only option. Try to control your symptoms with natural remedies instead of, or in addition to, a formal prescription. Consider these supplements:
B12 has been shown to elevate moods in people who were and were not B12 deficient. Women who take oral contraceptives may be more likely to be deficient and should consider adding a B-vitamin to their regimen.
Traditionally taken to boost energy and mood levels, preliminary studies of young men who took selenium have shown that their feelings of anxiety, confusion and uncertainty lessened as a direct result.
People who suffer from depression may be zinc deficient, and supplementation can help decrease their symptoms.
For depression that seems to deepen during the winter or is more severe among those living in colder climates, Vitamin D has been shown to increase serotonin production.
If you have been diagnosed with iron deficiency, supplementing with iron can decrease depression. However, taking iron is not recommended if you have not been diagnosed as deficient.
Depression is a serious condition that should never be taken lightly. However, the good news is that there are options to help you find relief. And the even better news is that more is being learned about depression every day. So don’t give up hope!