According to a 2012 survey of the United States National Institute of Mental Health, about 6.9% of the population or 16 million adults have experienced at least one significant depressive episode. Based on a study conducted by the World Health Organization, over 350 million people across the world suffer from depression.
There are as many types of depression as there are treatments. Not everyone with depressive disorder exhibit the same symptoms. The severity of the condition depends on the person and on the type of depressive disorder he has. More often than not depression is a co-morbidity of illnesses such as stroke, heart disease, diabetes or cancer.
A person diagnosed with chronic depression will most likely opt for medication to control the symptoms of said condition. However, taking medications to treat or at least alleviate episodes of depression is not the only treatment course. A more holistic or rounded approach that entails treating one’s body and mind is an additional option that may complement prescribed medications, for a quick recovery from depression.
Diet and Depression
According to the Association of UK Dietitians, good nutrition is an important factor in physical and mental health.
People tend to eat sweet, sugary, and fatty food to “feel” good. The truth is that these types of food may well boost one’s mood and energy, but only for a short while. A few hours after, the nice feeling would eventually plummet down, and then it is back to feeling lousy and depressed for the said person.
There is no magic diet to treat depression, but many specialists agree that eating healthy food such as vegetables, fruits, fish, lean meats, whole grain and beans is recommended for people suffering from depression. Why? Because eating a healthy, balanced diet will keep blood sugar level stable all through the day, helping prop up one’s mood. One should eat food that enhances his gut health.
Researches indicate that folate, Omega 3 fatty acids, and vitamin B12 may have positive effects on depression. Though these food items will not necessarily boost one’s mental health, they may readily aid with brain functions. Another study indicated that gut bacteria neurochemicals such as Bifidobacteria and Lactobaccilli affect one’s mood and neurological functions. Some other food that fights depression are: green leafy vegetables; avocado; walnuts; mushroom; berries; tomatoes; onions; and apples.
People prone to feeling extreme sadness, or depression should be careful not to indulge on natural depressants such as alcohol, caffeine, as well high-calorie-low nutrition food. Studies have proven that heavy alcohol consumption is linked to panic attacks and anxiety. It reduces serotonin naturally produced by the body, which in effect makes people prone to depression and anxiety. Caffeine also reduces serotonin (happy hormone) level and therefore also increases the risk for depression, anxiety, and may cause difficulty in initiating sleep. Eating refined sugar, processed food and all other high-calorie food that are low in nutrients, momentarily boosts energy. This food group increases storage of fat, raises blood sugar level and may even prompt a “crash after a rush”. Aspartame has also been linked to a decreased serotonin.
Exercise and Depression
When feeling “blue”, exercising seems to be the last thing on one’s mind; but once a person gets motivated, exercise or any form of physical activity, seems to lift up one’s spirit.
Studies indicate that exercise helps in preventing and improving health problems such as arthritis, diabetes and high blood pressure. Scientific researches on exercise, depression and anxiety have shown that the physical and psychological benefits of exercise also help improve a person’s mood and diminish anxiety. How?
Regular exercise or any physical activity may ease depression by releasing those feel good chemicals called endorphins. This chemical acts as analgesic and sedative. As this chemical interacts with the brain receptors, a person’s pain perception is lessened. Endorphins also make a person feel positive. Notice how after a really good workout a person feels quite euphoric.
Endorphins are produced in the spinal cord, brain and other parts of the body. They are released in response to neurotransmitters, which is another type of brain chemical. As the endorphins bind to the neuron receptors, a person’s mood starts to lift up.
In general exercising regularly will reduce stress, boost self-esteem, fight off feelings of depression and anxiety, and improve sleep. Exercise will take one’s mind off worries – warding off negative thoughts that feed depression and anxiety.
Studies indicate that the biochemical changes in the brain due to exercising are similar to those produced when one is taking medication. There is also an increase in serotonin level. Exercise is a good option for children, pregnant and postpartum women, and adults who cannot take medication for depression. Studies show that in these three groups, symptoms of depression were reduced when they regularly exercised. It has been observed that those who developed a regular exercise routine were less likely to have a relapse.
Depression and Talk Therapy
Numerous studied have concluded that psychotherapy or talk therapy can help depressed people bounce back. Talk therapy basically presents a way for the person to recognize and handle his condition. However, for severe depression, a combination of medication and talk therapy is more beneficial.
There are two general types of therapy used for depression – interpersonal therapy and cognitive behavior therapy or CBT. Interpersonal therapy pertains to how one relates to others, helping him to go for positive changes in his personal relationships with others. CBT is more focused on making positive changes in one’s behaviors and thoughts.
Mental health specialists who can efficiently give talk therapy are psychologists, psychiatrists and other mental health professionals such as trained counselors, social workers, or therapists. It is important to choose a therapist that one feels a rapport with as talk therapy will be more successful if the patient and therapist have a good relationship. This type of holistic approach in treating depression may take from weeks to years.
Depression Treatment Plan
Any treatment course for depression will only be successful if a person gives it enough time to work. The process may take several weeks or even longer, but an improvement is most likely to happen if the patient sticks with the treatment plan. Getting over depression takes a bit of work. It is best to persevere.