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How Serious is Depression?

How Serious is Depression?

Depression is the leading cause of disability and suicide in the world right now. As a type of mental illness, it is considered ‘invisible’ by many which makes it much harder to understand than physical ailments such as high cholesterol or diabetes, for example. One major misconception and source of confusion is between having depression and just feeling depressed temporarily. Everyone feels bad from time to time. Having a bad day, losing a job, not getting good grades, having an argument or even sometimes the rainy weather can be the reason for your situational sadness. And yet other times, there is no trigger to your feelings at all and they seem to just pop up out of the blue. Then circumstances change and those feelings disappear. 

What “Depression” actually is!

Depression is more than what we illustrated above and is a serious medical disorder involving the complex organ of the brain. This condition lingers for at least two consecutive weeks and interferes with many aspects of your everyday life.

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Definition of Depression

Depression is a brain disorder with a variety of causes including genetic, environmental, psychological and biochemical factors.”

Symptoms Of Depression

  • A lack of energy and feelings of fatigue
  • Decrease in movement
  • Decrease in speech
  • Weight fluctuation
  • Lack of interest in activities you once enjoyed (Anhedonia)
  • Oversleeping or sleeplessness
  • Thoughts of death or suicide
  • Feeling of worthlessness
  • Restlessness

Other than these major symptoms there can be some correlated symptoms too, such as:

  • Headache
  • Cramps
  • Pain
  • Digestive problems etc. 

Who is more prone to depression?

Depression usually starts between the ages of 15-30 and is much more common in women. Women can also get postpartum depression after the birth of a baby. Some people suffer from ‘Seasonal affective disorder” in the winter season and might confuse its symptoms with those of depression. 

Are YOU just down or actually going through depression?!

It’s estimated about 10% of people in their lives go through depression or suffer from mood disorder characterized by the symptoms like feeling sad, hopelessness, distressed, unmotivated, excessively tired. You may or may not be part of that 10%

Causes of Depression

Neuroscientists still don't have a complete picture of what causes depression. It seems to have to do with the complex interaction between individual genes and external factors from the environment, however we don’t have a diagnostic tool currently that can accurately predict where, when, and in whom it may show up. Because depression symptoms are often invisible, it’s hard to determine who is actually struggling out of those that seem to be doing fine. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, it takes about 10 years for a suffering person to draw the courage to seek help for their depression.

Diagnosis

Neuroimaging reveals how the many brain circuits that normally regulate mood are being dysregulated in depression. Located deep within the brain, the amygdala processes highly salient stimuli such as rewards and potential threats. In depression, the amygdala is overactive and responses excessively to negative events and triggers. In turn, it connects to a set of brain regions that turn on a physiological and behavioral response to different emotional stimuli. 

These areas include some other structures too, along with the hippocampus. Excessive stress in depressed people can lead to hippocampus atrophy along with changes in the production and levels of neurotransmitters.

Treatment Of Depression

There are effective treatments of depression including antidepressants and talk therapy. Most people do best by using both. Most antidepressants presented increase the amount of neurotransmitters serotonin and norepinephrine in the neural synapsis. However it can take long weeks for antidepressants to show their activity and improve the symptoms. 

Non chemical treatment of depression includes electroconvulsive shock therapy which involves controlled seizures, can increase hippocampal plasticity. 

Lifestyle Changes To Treat Depression

Medication and treatment can help relieve symptoms, however, lifestyle changes such as keeping a healthy diet are also effective in boosting personal wellbeing. Diet specifically is such an important component of mental health that it has a whole field of medicine dedicated to it called nutritional psychiatry. 

What we put in our body is critical for every aspect of our health, but there is a special correlation with mental health. “You are what you eat” is a commonly used phrase, however we often underestimate its meaning and relevance. We are all, in reality, a product of our diet. IN the case of depression specifically, a poor diet leads to inflammation in brain, whereas a healthy diet can prevent any brain damage.

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1) Fruits rich in antioxidants like apricots, broccoli, carrots, lemons, tomatoes, and strawberries are great natural mood boosters and can enhance your brain health.

2) Limit carbohydrates as they are negatively linked to the production of the mood elevating brain chemical called serotonin. Neurologists are not 100% certain about this correlation, however it is possible that carbohydrate cravings may be the result of low serotonin activity. Studies also reveal that a diet rich in carbohydrates can induce depression in postmenopausal women. So, choose your carbs wisely, limit sugary food and opt for smart and complex carbs like whole grain and legumes.

3) Protein rich food helps to keep your brain healthy as the amino acids contained are effective in promoting production of brain neurotransmitters such as dopamine (by tyrosine). Production of serotonin and dopamine, the primary brain chemicals involved in uplifting of the mood, are also mainly affected by your protein intake. Milk, cheese, egg, dairy products, yogurt, soy products etc., are good source of proteins.

4) Vitamin B12, B6 and folic acid are linked to enhancing positive brain neurotransmitters and supplements of these do wonders in dealing with depression. Vitamin B containing foods include legume, nuts, dark green vegetables, fish and low-fat dairy.

5) Vitamin D receptors are found throughout the body as well as the brain. A recent international study found that low levels of vitamin D significantly contribute to depression. Research also suggests vitamin D helps in mood regulation and overcoming feelings of worthlessness.

6) Selenium rich foods such as legumes, nuts, seeds, beef, chicken, low fat dairy products, sardines, crabs, lobsters, and salt fish are beneficial for managing depression as low selenium levels are seen to be directly associated with a low mood. 

7) People who don’t eat an adequate amount of omega 3 fatty acid rich food are at the most risk of suffering from major depressive disorder (MDD). Fatty fish, soybean and flax seeds are great sources of this nutrient.

Conclusion

Mental health is a very critical health issue especially in this day and age. Our mental health affects how we feel, act and cope with life, and also determines how we handle the various stressors we are presented with. So, if you think you’re experiencing depression, don’t feel shy to seek help in order to achieve a happy and healthy life. 

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