I am regularly astonished at the many faces of depression that I see. Anger, guilt, diarrhoea, headaches, weight gain or weight loss. Not necessarily sadness. Sadness is clearly not fashionable in many aspects of our cup-of-cement culture.
This can make it a little more difficult to identify depression, let alone treat the person with it. Often the person suffering is not aware, although those in close proximity to them may be. If your partner starts referring to you as “voldemort” then it might be good to check yourself out. Likewise if you suddenly feel guilty and responsible for everything and anything, and just cannot let it go.
Other Major Signs to look out for:
- Fatigue (I wrote this first in case I get puffed)
- Change in appetite or weight
- Loss of pleasure in activities that are usually fun (“I’m so over golf these days..”..“Another chocolate bath with movies? Again? Urgh.”)
- Loss of engagement in work (boring)
- Sense of withdrawal, or actual withdrawal from daily activities, work etc
- Poor sleep onset, waking in the night or waking very early (and/or very cranky or sensitive)
- Pervasive guilt (“Why WHY did I forget to take my green bags with me shopping? How on earth could I forget my mother-in-laws-goldfish’s-next-door-neighbour’s birthday??)
- Restlessness and fidgeting (the end of your pens are mangled, and your colleagues think your foot-tapping is a passion for Jazz)
- Inability to concentrate (“what was I doing? .. oh”)
- Worry, anxiety and fears and paranoia (I am not!)
- Physical symptoms of stress such as butterflies in the stomach, headache, indigestion, diarrhoea, palpitations, tremor
(And of course)
- Depressed mood; feeling flat, empty or sad
- Apathy, feeling that things are pointless (“why bother – everything is boring and futile anyway”)
My firm recommendation for anyone who suspects they (or a loved one) may be experiencing depression is to consult a Doctor or Psychologist as a first line of treatment. Depression may require medication, counseling and/or further testing, all of which can help to identify the (often complicated) underlying causes.
Pharmaceutical antidepressants are helpful for approximately 70% of depressed patients, however up to 30% may not respond to pharmaceuticals, and many seek out natural antidepressants or seek to treat the causes (rather than the symptoms) first. Everybody is different, and choosing the correct, individualized treatment is paramount.
Many factors can contribute to depression, including:
- Traumatic early life experiences (often subtle in functional families)
- Role modelling
- Life situations that cause stress (such as loss or grief, social or financial problems)
- Unhelpful thinking patterns and schemas, including perfectionism
- Adrenal fatigue
- Lack of exercise
- Lack of dietary protein
- Sleep deprivation and low melatonin
- Blood sugar imbalances
- Stimulant or drug use (including alcohol, caffeine and marijuana)
- Food allergies and intolerances (salicylates, amines, MSG, sulphites, additives, wheat, gluten and dairy being the most common)
- Over or under-active thyroid
- Testosterone dominance or deficiency
- Oestrogen dominance or deficiency
- Nutritional deficiency (particularly omega 3 essential fatty acids)
- Insufficient or over-active methylation
- Infections, including glandular fever viruses, yeast overgrowth and parasites
- Toxicity (chemicals, heavy metals)
- Genetic susceptibility
Your primary health care practitioner is likely your best guidance to identifying and treating these factors, and their overlapping biochemical pathways.
The most common biochemical causes I see are:
- Adrenal fatigue, stress and exhaustion
- Lack of dietary protein
- Lack of physical exercise
- Sleep deprivation and disruption
- Perfectionism and lack of self compassion
- Neurotransmitter deficiency
- Methylation pathway abnormalities
- Food allergy (IgE) and sensitivity (gluten and IgG)
If any of this article rings a bell for you or a loved one, I’d like to suggest a visit to your primary healthcare practitioner. General Practitioners are of course very busy, but a good one (in my opinion) will listen to you and your treatment preferences (inclusive of your preferred approach) and will offer a referral to an appropriate practitioner under the Mental Health Care Plan, if you are eligible.
If your Doctor is happy to monitor your symptoms and support you whilst employing nutritional, herbal or lifestyle measures, I recommend you seek help from a qualified Nutritionist or Naturopath who is happy to communicate with you (and your Doctor) on an ongoing basis. After all, you can’t have too much support.
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