Every day, more and more research is done on the mind. It seems that the more we search, the more complex the mind becomes. With the complexity comes more identified disorders, one of which is depression.
Though not a new term, depression is becoming more and more prevalent in society. Today, many people want to know how not to be depressed. Individuals are asking the question to learn for themselves or, to help someone they love to overcome this problem.
At the same time, many live with this experience daily. Some appear to embrace and claim it as part of who they are. Others long to get rid of it but have no clue as to what to do.
Then there are those who have been to the psychiatrist or psychologist. They are medicated along with other treatment. It is not unusual to meet depressed persons who have been told that they will be on medication for the remainder of their lives.
What is depression
Depression is most times a cognitive issue. It results from our thoughts, how we process things, events and issues. The experience that may lead to depression in one person may be another person’s source of triumph.
Some studies say that depression results from a malfunction in the “electrical wiring of the brain”. This causes the brain to short circuit and prevents messages from being transferred from one receptor to another.
What is not clear is whether our thoughts result in the over or under production of the hormones that prevent this transmission or if the secreted hormones cause the short-circuiting that result in depressing thoughts.
Either way, the individual becomes depressed and behaves in that manner. His behavior becomes a source of concern both for himself and for those around him.
If not treated immediately, the person deteriorates further and may even reach the point of self harm and later suicide. It is therefore very important that we be able to identify signs of depression in ourselves and our friends and loved ones.
If we do, then it may be easier to provide the help that they need much earlier.
An individual’s approach to a traumatic experience – this usually depends on the person and their view of life – may largely determine whether or not he becomes depressed.
The death of a loved one may result in one person becoming depressed while it may be easily accepted by another and or may bring out excellence in someone else. Earlier this year, while following a game of cricket, I heard the story of one player whose mother had died the night before the final day of the game.
Some thought that he would not play, but he did and took three wickets. His effort contributed to his team winning the game.
His approach to the death of his mother brought out excellence.
Other experiences that may bring on depression are:
- Loss of a job
- Post-menstrual syndrome
- Environmental conditions
- Food allergies
- Diagnosis of a terminal illness eg. cancer
- Loss of a home
- Contracting hepatitis or a severe viral illness
- A stroke
- Endocrine problems
In countries where there are long, dark, dreary winter months, some people are know to have become depressed. In such cases, the depression is know as “seasonal affective disorder”.
It has been found that two times as many women suffer with depression as men and that in cases where one or both parents experienced depression, it is 40% likely that their offspring will suffer with it too.
Bipolar depression, which sees the person alternating between periods of depression and excitement is another form of depression. Probably more acute.
The use of alcohol and or drugs may also result in depression.
Signs and symptoms of depression
There is no set out step by step path to depression. One person may exhibit signs of depression by eating comfort foods. Another may just withdraw to himself and begin to neglect personal hygiene.
No single occurrence of these or other symptoms that will be identified, means that the individual is depressed. A combination of them though, can lead to a diagnosis of depression. Such diagnosis should be made by a trained professional.
So here are some signs to look for in a depressed person. Please note that a one-off occurrence of any of these symptoms or even a number of them simultaneously, does not mean that the person is depressed.
In fact, there must be at least five of these symptoms occurring over an extended period – minimum two weeks – for most of the day, before it can be said that the person may be or is depressed. These must include the first two symptoms.
In addition, these symptoms, if brought on by another disorder or as a result of side effects from medication would not be normally classified as signs of depression.
You can observe for the following psychological, physical and cognitive symptoms:
- The person being in a depressed mood most of the day, every day and over a long period.
- A lack of interest in and enjoyment of things in which they once found pleasure and participated. Again, this must occur for most of the day and over a long period.
- Constant thoughts about death and dying. Going as far as to making plans for committing suicide.
- Feelings of worthlessness, even expressing surprise that people should care about them. This is most times accompanied with feelings of guilt.
- Often there is the inability or unwillingness to make decisions – even about small things.
- There is also difficulty in concentrating for any period.
- Changes in weight may also occur, either in weight gain or in weight loss.
- Fatigue may also result and or a lack of energy.
- Usually there is either a decrease or more often an increase, in appetite.
- Insomnia may also be an expressed symptom, or, on the other hand, constant sleep.
- This symptom can often be overlooked but knowing of it will assist in recognizing its presence. It is an increase in unintentional movement – pacing all the time, or a slowing down of movement eg. an unwillingness to even get out of bed.
Treatment for the depressed
In spite of all the above, depression is mainly a result of our thoughts – negative, moody, hopeless thoughts – in this case.
Ask any depressed person what are her current thoughts and listen for the response. It is quite rare to find a depressed person who will have or share positive thoughts.
So that, being diagnosed with cancer does not automatically result in depression. If so, all cancer patients would be depressed. Instead, it is the thoughts that the person entertains and dwells on that lead to feelings of depression.
Faced with such a diagnosis, the person who becomes depressed may harbor thoughts such as; “I am going to die. I am not ready and my body is just rotting away on me. There’s no cure, no way I could be healed from this disease. I am going to be a burden on my family and they will resent me for that. It’s better that I die now and put and end to this misery”.
Or a variation of such thoughts.
Whatever it turns out to be, it is almost always negative.
Negative thoughts results in negative feelings. But a depressed person seldom reports what’s going on with him in terms of his thoughts but in terms of his feelings “I feel so down, so depressed”.
It leads me to wonder; does our feelings derive from our thoughts, or our thoughts from our feelings? Personally I believe that our feelings are a result of our thoughts.
You disagree? then consider this scenario:
You’ve been having a lovely day. Everything has been going as you wish. Then someone says or does something you do not like. What is activated, your thoughts or your feelings?
I say it’s your thoughts. You tell yourself that you resent what the person had said/done. That you were the target and that it was meant to make you look or feel bad. That the person does not like you, hence the reason for what occurred.
As you ruminate on those thoughts you begin to feel annoyed, angry. Now that you know that you are angry, you move into the action mode. Without realizing it, you have already decided what you will do if you were to get angry. So you lash out, because you want to even the score, to get back at the person who has hurt you.
All this happens as a result of your thoughts. Some of your action came as a result of decisions made long before the incident occurred. Most, if not all of us have “what if” periods. During those times we hypothesize about how we would respond in given circumstances. Without realizing it, we decide our future responses. Later, when the situation arises and we respond, often the saying is “I don’t know where that came from”.
Reality is that it came from your past. You thought about it, experienced the feeling and decided how you would react. Then forgot it. Your subconscious didn’t though. When the trigger came, so too did the already decided on reaction – automatically.
Good or bad thoughts, result in good or bad feelings.
The depressed person must therefore take an active part in his recovery. Help from loved ones will go a long way in bringing on recovery. A professional counselor can also make a huge impact on the recovery of a depressed person.
There are those who recommend the use of medication for recovery from depression. Personally, I would advise that as long as it’s not needed, that you avoid it. There are so many side effects with drugs that while you partially cure one problem, another is created.
Some medication suppresses the symptoms but the person is not healed.
If however you are receiving professional help through talk therapy and she desires to add medication to it, then the choice is yours whether or not you accept it.
Some therapists use a combination of talk therapy and medication. Keep in mind that while you should trust your therapist, It is important that you become actively involved in your treatment and recovery. Research your medication and even methods that your therapist uses with you.
Diet for depression
Depressed persons have their own diet. Even those who declare themselves depressed because the events of the moment or day is not going their way, partake of that diet.
Usually it is composed of refined sweets that have little or no nutritional value. This may include chocolate, candy, pastries and soda. They may also crave fatty foods such as meat and meat products.
Unfortunately, this is not the best food for them, especially at this time. Those around them who love them needs to step in here and demonstrate that love by encouraging the person to make the better choice. Even if the craving for sweets is overwhelming, it is best that the depressed person use foods such as honey, sweet dried fruits or molasses.
These foods provide the sugar that is craved but also contain minerals that can help metabolize the sugars.
To help with recovery though, whole grains, vegetables, nuts and peas, prepared simply, would prove much more helpful to the individual rather than giving in to the cravings.
These foods can be used even if the person is on antidepressant drugs. Be careful with antidepressants though as they may bring on different types of physical and mental issues. At the same time, the person should be encouraged to stay away from all other forms of drugs, even the legal ones.
Here is a sample of the foods that should make up the diet of the person who thinks he is depressed or has been pronounced to be so by his doctor.
- Pineapple – it is unsafe for pregnant women to use this fruit unripened, even the leaves.
- Sage – as tea
- Vitamins B1, B6 and C
- Brewer’s yeast
- Brazil nuts
- Wheat Germ
- Royal Jelly
These foods help nourish the nervous system and may therefore help provide the depressed person with a more balanced nervous system.
A balanced diet is still essential.
Do Not Use or Cut Down On These
- White sugar
- Alcohol and or Alcoholic beverages
- Saturated fat
- Stimulant beverages
- Caffeine and tobacco
- All junk foods
- Binges – eating or shopping
- Diet pills
The above foods would have an opposite effect on the body/nervous system.
No longer depressed
A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones. Prov. 17:22
Keep in mind that we all have our days of sadness and ‘the blues”. So if by word or action someone you know exhibits the symptoms described above, it would be best that you recommend that that person seek help. If you are that person, then you have found out what is needed.
The good news is that there is hope. You can overcome depression. Such hope by itself can set the tone for recovery. Believing that it is possible is a huge step in providing the positivism that is necessary for beginning that journey back to enjoying life.
Understanding that your diet also contributes to your state of depression, would help you choose carefully what you place in your fridge and later in your stomach.
“An ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure” says an old proverb. Seek to prevent depression with the correct attitude up front. Look for the positive solution in every situation. If there’s no way you can control the situation, see what best you can get out of it.
Most importantly, do not lose hope and be very aware of the thoughts you dwell upon. Especially during your “what if” moments.
A proper balance of nutrition, water, fresh air, exercise, sunlight. temperance, a relationship with God and rest can both help prevent depression or recovery from the illness.
You can beat depression so that one day, you will no longer be depressed.
Disclaimer: Please note that I am not medically trained and that nothing written here is meant to be a diagnosis or prescriptive. If after reading this you think that you or someone you know is depressed, please visit a doctor for professional help.