Depression is a common health problem affecting about two-thirds of adults in their lifetime. Women are more likely to experience depression, in particular due to their susceptibility to hormonal changes at various interval of their life, as well as during pregnancy or child birth. with the right support in most cases people will make a full recovery. Depression is characterised by persistent low energy, mood and loss of interest and enjoyment of life. It is more than just a transient feeling of unhappiness or low mood for a few days. It can be mild, moderate or severe, and depending on the degree of depression it can affect a person’s physical, mental and emotional health.
In Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) depression typically gets worse in the winter as the day light hours are shorter. This lack of exposure to daylight causes people with SAD to experience sadness, fatigue and lethargy, which improves when daylight hours start to lengthen.
Symptoms of Depression
People are affected by depression in different ways and therefore symptoms can vary from person to person. There may be feelings of sadness and despair, loss of interest, hope, being tearful and performance of daily activities become difficult to perform. Many people also have symptoms associated with stress and anxiety, such as difficulty sleeping, loss of appetite and various aches and pains. In severe cases a sense of despondency leads to an inability to function accompanied by thoughts of suicide. Depression that follows a significant life event e.g. loss of a loved one, a life-threatening diagnosis or divorce is a normal reaction and will usually improve with the support of family and friends. This should not be confused with depression that is long term and has no identifiable cause.
Treatment of Depression
Conventional treatment for depression involves medication and/or talk therapy.
Integrative & Complementary medicine
A holistic integrative approach to depression is most helpful. This will help to deal with any physical as well as psychological issues.
Acupuncture studies indicate that there is a positive effect on the brain by improving mood and behaviour, and sensitivity to stress, as well as enhancing relaxation and deactivation of the ‘analytical’ brain. There is a benefit to the neurochemical pathways involving dopamine, noradrenaline, cotisol and neuropeptides. It can also resolve physical ailments associated with pain, and can be safely used in combination with medical treatments.
Nutrition supplements that are sometimes used for depression include; St John’s wort, SAMe, vitamin B and omega-3 fatty acids. It is important to remember that there are potential drug interactions and side effects caused by these supplements. For this reason talk to your health care advisor before taking any supplements.
Aromatherapy & Massage can be highly beneficial for depression, particularly when used in conjunction with other therapies. Essential oils such as lavender, bergamot, roman chamomile, sweet marjoram and neroli have good sedative and relaxing effects. Aromatherapy & massage is effective in breaking the stress cycle of sleeplessness and fatigue.
Other therapies: In many cases changes in lifestyle e.g. sleep, stress management, exercise, diet and taking part in activities will help to alleviate feelings of low mood and fatigue. Regular exercise including, yoga, tai chi, dance and movement therapy, reiki, relaxation and psychological therapies can be considered alongside any conventional medical treatments particularly as they have fewer adverse effects.