Depression

Depression

Depression is a serious illness that is far more common than most people think, affecting about 20% of us at some stage in our lives. If you suffer from depression, there's no need to be embarrassed or ashamed. Help is available, and the first step to turning things around is to consult your healthcare professional.

Symptoms

  • Feeling sad, dejected or hopeless, or experiencing changes in mood, personality or behaviour. These symptoms last for at least two weeks, often without obvious cause
  • Irritability, shortness of temper, moodiness
  • Loss of interest in pleasurable activities
  • Poor appetite, sometimes with weight loss
  • Sufferer may become isolated and withdrawn, avoiding social contact, even with loved ones. Absenteeism from work or school may also occur
  • Insomnia, or conversely, sleeping for long periods of time
  • Fatigue
  • Anxiety
  • Stress
  • Risky behaviour, for example increased consumption of drugs or alcohol, participating in dangerous activities
  • Thought processes, conversation and movement may become slow and plodding
  • Inability to concentrate
  • In bipolar disorder (formerly referred to as manic depression), the sufferer may experience both extreme highs and extreme lows

Causes

  • In many cases, depression is a response to Stress or difficult circumstances in the sufferer's life, for example grief, relationship difficulties, or poor working conditions
  • Other causes may include chemical imbalances, hormonal problems (e.g. premenstrual syndrome or Thyroid underactivity), underlying disease states, and adverse reactions to prescribed medicines
  • Abuse of drugs or alcohol
  • There is a strong correlation between Anxiety and depression, and inherited factors may also play a role

Nutritional & Herbal Support

  • St John's wort has been clinically proven to relieve mild to moderate depression, and studies show it is just as safe and effective for the condition as some prescribed medicines
  • S-adenosylmethionine (SAMe) may help to maintain emotional wellbeing by supporting optimal levels of mood-enhancing neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine, and has been clinically proven to relieve symptoms of depression. It is often taken in combination with folic acid and vitamin B12, which are required for the body's own production of SAMe
  • Rhodiola has traditionally been used to aid the management of depression, and also supports energy levels, concentration, immune function and libido. It is considered particularly beneficial for supporting the body's natural defences against emotional and environmental sources of Stress, and is often taken in combination with B group vitamins, which are essential for healthy nervous system function
  • Kava has traditionally been used to relieve Anxiety. Clinical studies have shown it to be just as effective for the condition as some prescribed medicines. Kava is specifically indicated when Anxiety symptoms are associated with Menopause or Insomnia. Look for kava tablets providing 2400 mg kava standardised to contain 60 mg active kavalactones
  • Depression, Anxiety and Stress deplete the body's nutrients, which increases your daily requirements. Take a high potency multivitamin that provides the B-complex group of vitamins, vitamin C, magnesium and other nutrients that help combat nervous tension and Anxiety
  • If you regularly experience Anxiety, depression or other mood problems as a symptom of premenstrual syndrome, take Vitex agnus-castus, a herb that has traditionally been used to balance female hormones
  • Vitex is sometimes combined with other herbs and nutrients that provide PMT support. Important ingredients to look for include magnesium, vitamin C and vitamin B6

Diet & Lifestyle advice

  • If you are concerned for your own safety or that of someone else, seek the advice of your doctor urgently, or phone Lifeline on 13 11 14 (in Australia) or 0800 543 354 (in New Zealand)
  • Talk to your doctor if you are experiencing symptoms of depression; there are many forms of treatment and support available
  • Regular exercise and activity are vital for mental health, and can help to improve Stress levels, depression, low moods and Anxiety. Even a brisk 30-minute walk has health benefits, but other options include swimming, yoga and going to the gym. Exercising with a friend offers a valuable opportunity to combine socialising with physical activity; talking to someone you trust can help you to let off steam and explore solutions to your problems
  • Learn and practice meditation or relaxation techniques in order to improve your ability to cope with Stress
  • Don't smoke, drink alcohol or use recreational drugs - all of these can exacerbate the problem, even if they may make you feel better in the short-term
  • Maintain social contact with friends, family and colleagues
  • Develop a routine or structure to your day that includes some exercise, some social interaction, and at least one activity that brings you some form of pleasure
  • Avoid the use of stimulants such as coffee, tea, chocolate and other caffeine-containing substances - besides stimulating your adrenal glands to produce more Stress hormones, these substances further deplete your body's nutrient levels
  • Your requirements for key nutrients increase when you're under pressure, so avoid junk foods and refined sugars and carbohydrates, and don't skip meals. Instead, eat plenty of whole grains, fresh fruit and vegetables, and high quality proteins. Oily fish such as salmon, tuna and sardines are an excellent choice because they are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which are needed for healthy brain function. Inadequate consumption of omega-3s may contribute to mood imbalances

If symptoms persist consult your healthcare professional. Information provided is of a general nature and should not replace that of your healthcare professional.

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