RESOURCES FOR ALTERNATIVE TREATMENT OF DEPRESSION & ANXIETY
WHAT IS DEPRESSION?
Depression is a low mood that results in feeling sad or down for more than 2 weeks at a time. Some people suffer depression for months or even years at a time. Depression can affect a person’s thoughts, behavior and feelings. People who have depression can feel sad, anxious,empty,hopeless, helpless, worthless, guilty, irritable,ashamed or restless. They may lose interest in doing things they usually enjoy doing. Depression is a mental health illness, although its presence can lead to or stem from physical health challenges.
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CAUSES OF DEPRESSION
The cause of depression has been the subject of much debate over recent years. The two main schools of thought are that depression is either caused by negative or upsetting situations that occur in an individual’s life or certain people are predisposed to becoming depressed. Some experts say it is a combination of both, i.e. a person who is prone to depression is more likely to suffer from it if they are going through a difficult time in their life.
While circumstances such as being unemployed, having financial difficulties, going through a divorce or break-up or a death in the family are incredibly sad, challenging and stressful, these situations do not necessarily lead to depression. However, if you are already at risk of becoming depressed, these experiences are more likely to tip you into a downward spiral of despair, loneliness and negative thought patterns.
The causes of depression are incredibly varied and there is often more than one possible cause. Sometimes, a combination of life’s challenges, lifestyle factors and genetics are all at play, so the exact cause is unknown. Despite popular belief, depression is not caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain.
SO HOW DO WE KNOW IF SOMEONE IS AT RISK OF BECOMING DEPRESSED?
There are a number of contributing factors to take into consideration.
If you answer yes to any of these questions, you may be at risk of depression:
If you think you may have depression or you aren’t sure, it is important to reach out and seek help.
If you want to talk to someone about your current situation, or events in your life that may be leading to your depression, click here to find out more.
SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS OF DEPRESSION
If someone is experiencing several of the following signs and symptoms at the same time, they may be depressed. However, everyone experiences some of these signs and symptoms occasionally and it does not necessarily mean they are depressed. If you are unsure if you are depressed, please speak to your doctor..
- Feeling sad, miserable or unhappy
- Low confidence, self esteem and worthiness
- Overwhelm and indecisiveness
- Feeling irritated or frustrated
- Blaming themselves and feeling guilty
- Being disappointed in themselves
- Loss of hope for a brighter future
- Suicidal thoughts
- Constantly tired, lethargic and run down
- Headaches, sore muscles and stomach pain
- Insomnia – difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep
- Difficulty concentrating
- Eating excessively or not eating very much
- Gaining or losing a considerable amount of weight
- Stops talking to family and friends
- Spending more time at home
- Drinking alcohol excessively or using drugs
- Low performance at work or school
- Stops doing things they usually enjoy
To find out if you or some you know may have depression, take the test now.
TYPES OF DEPRESSION
A type of depression that shows many of the physical signs and symptoms that are characteristic of depression, such as no longer doing things they enjoy, walking and completing activities more slowly than usual and not enjoying anything they do. People who have melancholic depression have these symptoms present for more than 2 weeks.
People with psychotic depression experience hallucinations and/or delusions. They may see or hear things that are not real. They may believe they are a bad person and are causing bad things to happen. They may believe that someone in particular or other people in general are watching them or going to harm them.
People who have cyclothymic disorder experience similar mood swings to people who have Bipolar, however the mania and depression is not as severe. The ups and downs don’t last as long and don’t happen as often as with people who have Bipolar.
Excessive mood swings are present in people who have Bipolar; from feeling very low (depression) to very high (mania) and back to very low (depression) again. When people are experiencing mania, they have lots of energy, their brain is on overdrive, they do not sleep very much, they think and talk fast, have trouble focusing and feel frustrated and irritable. Bipolar is also known as manic depression.
Prenatal and Postnatal Depression
Prenatal depression occurs when a mother is pregnant and postnatal depression occurs in the 12 months after the baby has been born. Approximately 10% of women will become depressed during their pregnancy and 16% of women will experience depression in the first three months after having a baby.
Dysthymia is similar to Melancholic depression, although the symptoms are milder and they last longer. In fact, people are not diagnosed with dysthymia until they have been experiencing symptoms for at least 2 years.
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that usually occurs in winter. In the colder, darker months of the year, people with SAD will be lethargic and tired even though they sleep a lot. They will also eat more than usual.
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TREATMENT FOR DEPRESSION
The treatments for depression are as many and varied as the types of depression. What works for one person may not be effective for another, so it is important to speak to your doctor about your treatment options.
If your depression is severe, your best option may be speaking to a therapist and/or taking anti-depressant medication. For mild depression, there are a wide range of alternative therapies available. Treatments can often be most effective when used in conjunction with each other.
Psychological treatments help people who have depression by teaching them how to choose positive thoughts instead of negative ones and have a more optimistic outlook on life. Psychological treatments also assist people with depression to cope better with life’s challenges. They can be used both for both recovery and prevention of depression.
Cognitive Behavior Therapy
Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) is based on the premise that it is not the situations we encounter that lead to depression, but the meaning we attach to them and the way we react to them that determines how we feel. Therapists use CBT to treat people with depression by helping them realise they can chose what they think and feel and providing strategies to assist them to think more positively.
Specifically, CBT helps clients to become aware of their negative thoughts, challenge these thoughts and search for a more positive thought to replace the negative thought. It also teaches clients to distract themselves from the negative thoughts and recognise and dispute the underlying beliefs that lead to the negative thoughts.
CBT not only aims to reduce the severity and frequency of depression, it also improves self esteem and relationships. It is one of the most effective treatments for depression.
If you would like some specific strategies to help you think more positively, our coaches can help.
Interpersonal Therapy (IPT) assists people to increase their awareness of challenges in their personal relationships and develop the necessary skills to solve them. IPT recognises that relationship challenges can significantly affect someone who has depression; it may even be the cause of their depression.
Once the patterns are identified, they can focus on breaking the pattern by improving their relationships, letting go of what has happening in the past and adopting more positive relationship habits.
Mindfulness is intentionally focusing your awareness on your emotions, thoughts and sensations occurring in the present moment in an accepting and non-judgemental way. Mindfulness exercises allow you to be able to identify, tolerate and reduce difficult, painful and even frightening thoughts, feelings and sensations.
Mindfulness gives you control over your thoughts and feelings, rather than being pushed around by them. It is effective in preventing depression from returning because it allows people to notice feelings of sadness and negative thinking patterns early on.
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SELF HELP AND ALTERNATIVE TREATMENTS
There are a wide range of self-help and alternate treatments that can be helpful for some types of depression, either on their own or together with psychological or medical treatments. People who have melancholic and psychotic depression are very unlikely to respond to self-help and alternative treatments on their own, however, they can be beneficial when used in conjunction with other treatments.
Consult your doctor or mental health professional before beginning any new treatments. If you have spoken to your doctor or another health professional, here are some other treatments you can trial to assist in your recovery.
Research has shown that exercise is an effective way to manage and prevent mild or moderate depression. Exercise helps people feel better in 2 ways:
1. Exercise increases serotonin in the brain, which is a neuro-transmitter that controls our mood, sleep, libido and appetite. Increasing serotonin improves your mood, helps you sleep and gives you more energy.
2. Your brain releases endorphins, which trigger a positive feeling in the body and helps to block negative thoughts.
Two separate studies have found that 16 weeks of regular exercise is just as effective as antidepressant medication in the treatment of mild to moderate depression. Both cardio exercise, such as walking, running, swimming or cycling and weight lifting are beneficial treatments for depression.
Eating a balanced diet with lots of fresh fruit and vegetables and avoiding sweet, fatty and processed foods has many physical and mental benefits, including an overall feeling of well being. It is also important to avoid drinking a lot of alcohol. Heavy drinking leads to thiamine and other vitamin deficiencies and can cause low mood, irritability and/or aggressive behavior.
St John’s wort, a herb with a yellow flower, is a popular herbal remedy for mild depression. It is an alternative to prescription antidepressant medication that can be bought over the counter. St John’s wort is unlikely to be effective in the treatment of melancholic (biological) depression.
Evidence suggests that omega-3 essential fatty acids, which are found in seafood, can be useful in treating depression. While several studies do show promising results for the use of omega-3s in the treatment of mood disorders, important questions remain regarding the optimal dose and whether omega-3s are an effective antidepressant on their own or only in conjunction with antidepressant medication.
With regard to recommendations for omega-3 intake for the prevention and treatment of mood disorder, there are still no definitive guidelines. If you want to take omega-3 supplements for depression, get medical advice first, as there can be complications such as blood-clotting disorders and side effects.
YOGA AND MEDITATION
Practicing yoga and meditating can help calm your mind, reduce stress, ease anxiety, and improve your mood. It also helps to gain clarity and put things in perspective.
Yoga and meditation are becoming more popular methods of managing depression and there is an increasing scientific interest in their effectiveness, especially for people who have mild or moderate depression.
A 2010 review of the research on yoga and depression in the Journal of Psychiatric Practice evaluated eight trials based on individuals with clinical depression and depression symptoms. Yoga was found to benefit mindfulness, physical activity, decreased stress, sleep, and thought patterns.
Despite the fact that people who have depression often don’t feel like socialising, spending time with family and friends can be very beneficial. Staying home alone can worsen the symptoms of depression, as individuals feel like they are not supported. Having the support and understanding of loved ones makes them feel connected, which improves their well being and self esteem.
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Anti-depressants are used to treat moderate and severe depression. They are either used in conjunction with psychological treatments or when other methods of treatment have not been successful.
There are 3 main types of medical treatments that can be prescribed; anti-depressants, mood stabilisers and anti-psychotic drugs. Your doctor will determine whether medical treatment is the right option for you and if so, which medication you are best suited to, based on your age, symptoms and any other medications you are taking.
It takes at least 2 weeks before the patient will feel a benefit from taking medication for depression. If the prescribed medication doesn’t have the desired effect, the doctor will either alter the dosage or prescribe a different medication.
Medical treatments for depression can have side effects, such as nausea, headaches, anxiety, sweating, dizziness, agitation, weight gain, dry mouth and low sex drive. Your doctor can help you manage and minimise any side effects that occur as a result of taking medication.
People often need to continue taking medication for several months or years after they start feeling better to reduce the likelihood of becoming depressed again.