Depression is more common than you think – and even you, yes you, have likely experienced it in some fashion. It’s worth looking at what causes depression, because often we are able to do something about it.
What Is Depression?
According to the American Psychiatric Association, “Depression (major depressive disorder) is a common and serious medical illness that negatively affects how you feel, the way you think and how you act.”
And roughly 7-8% of American adults have experienced AT LEAST one major episode of depression in their lifetime. That may not seem like a large number but in fact, 7-8% equates to approximately 18 MILLION people over the age of 18.
Could you be one of the 18 million? Probably so—and that’s OK.
Similar to other conditions, people are often uneasy, hesitant or embarrassed to discuss their bouts with depression for fear of how others will respond. Additionally, some people may not even associate their symptoms with depression.
Common Symptoms of Depression Include:
- Feeling sad for seemingly no reason
- Loss of interest in normal activities you enjoy
- Trouble sleeping or sleeping too much
- Inexplicable weight gain or loss
- Loss of energy or increased fatigue/ change in appetite
- Feeling worthless or guilty
- Difficulty focusing or making decisions
- Anxiety (restlessness and worry) often accompanies depression
- Suicidal thoughts
Additional Forms of Depression:
- Dysthymia: Chronic low-grade depression that affects on average 1.5% of adults.
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): Triggered by experiencing or witnessing a terrifying or shocking event.
- Postpartum Depression: The feeling of sadness, hopelessness or emptiness following the birth of a child related to the brain and hormones.
- Seasonal Affective Disorder: Related to the changing of seasons, typically starting in the cold, and often darker, fall and winter months and improving during the sunny, warm months of spring and summer.
- Bipolar Disorder: Involves extreme mood swings from mania to hypomania without a known cause.
- Even some forms of PMS have been linked to depression
Common Causes of Depression
In my professional opinion, the root of depression is often some form of a stressor in your life. I’ve been talking about this for a decade, going back to a review article I wrote titled, Anxiety and Depression: It All Starts With Stress for the June-July 2009 issue of Integrative Medicine: A Clinician’s Journal.
It’s important to remember that “stress” isn’t so clearly identifiable for most people. Unlike the images society gives us of “stress,” a stress trigger can come from many places or times in our lives:
- Childhood trauma
- Current stressors as an adult: work, finances, overwhelming decisions
- Food sensitivities (which leads to inflammation and affects the gut-brain axis)
- Exposure to toxins
- Sleep deprivation
and can lead to imbalances that make depressed mood more likely:
- Imbalance of cortisol and/or adrenaline
- Adrenal distress (related to adrenaline and cortisol levels)
- Gut bacteria imbalances
- Thyroid issues
- Blood sugar imbalances
- Disruption of serotonin, GABA and dopamine (neurotransmitters)
- Nutrient deficiencies
- Impaired methylation (especially those of us with MTHFR SNPs)
- Histamine intolerance
Plus, stressors turn on our genetic predispositions to:
- Imbalanced digestion, immunity, neurotransmitters and hormones
- Impaired methylation and detoxification
- Disrupted stress response, which leads to more stress
Treating Depression Naturally
You may be surprised to hear that many of my patients that come to me with experiences of depression are looking for other treatments outside of medications – but expect to hear that there aren’t any.
And nothing could be further from the truth.
While I absolutely believe (and have experienced myself) that depression can be real and overwhelming – and that at times, medication is necessary – I also know that addressing the underlying causes can make my patients feel better, faster, and for longer. And dare I say, that in my 20+ years as an ND, I’ve helped my patients to create the necessary shifts in their lives and improve their moods – for good.
The 3-Step Process for Treating Depression
Start by accepting that your mind and your body are integrated and changeable. From there, you can accept that it is your body, your mind, your current emotional experience, and the stressors or genetics that you’re dealing with are solvable.
Look for additional information. Don’t just take everything at face value and chalk it up to “I’m sad” – find out why. Food sensitivity panels, stool panels, neurotransmitter testing, measuring your cortisol levels, hormone levels (thyroid, insulin, estrogen, progesterone, etc), nutrient levels, toxin levels, and genetic testing are all fantastic avenues to investigate to truly understand your body and what it needs for optimized health.
Implement and choose. With your results in hand, you are empowered to make dietary and lifestyle changes, increase necessary supplements, choose stress-reducing activities and focus on selfCARE that is customized to YOUR HEALTH NEEDS.
I really want you to think about that last one: customizing selfCARE to your specific health needs. This could mean clean-eating, getting more exercise, getting more sleep — whatever it is your body needs. And yes, selfCARE is way more than bath salts and manicures.
Go Further with Dr. Doni
All in all, I want these to be your main takeaways from today’s post:
- Depression is WAY more common than most people think.
- It’s perfectly normal to experience depression AND seek help.
- Knowing what causes depression can help you formulate a plan of attack, and
- There are natural ways to help your body and mind heal to eliminate or reduce your episodes of depression.
For anyone who is experiencing depression, take a step back to look at the big picture of your health. What does YOUR body & mind need to optimize your health?
If you need help determining which tests or panels to seek first, please don’t hesitate. You can contact me here.
And if you’d like to get a sense of what working with me one-on-one looks like, it may help to read over one of my program descriptions, not that you have to choose a program and/or we might modify the program to fit your needs. Here is the Adrenal Stress Recovery Program.
We can decide on the program when we meet for the first time. Start by choosing to apply for either a Comprehensive Breakthrough Session or a Priority Breakthrough Session here.
If you would like to hear more about naturopathic solutions for depression, sign up for my presentation this week with the AANMC.
Naturopathic Approaches to Anxiety and Depression
December 5 @ 12:00 pm – 1:00 pm EST
Millions of people experience depression and anxiety, and often feel their only option is to take medications that may not completely resolve the issues. Looking at what causes depression, studies show that anxiety and depression are related both to our genetic tendencies and our exposure to various stresses in life. We can address our genetic tendencies and help our bodies recover from stress using natural approaches such as mindfulness, dietary changes, nutrients, amino acid therapy, as well as optimizing hormones, blood sugar, and gut bacteria. Naturopathic doctors can serve this population and help people resolve mood-related issues once and for all.
Wellness wishes to you, as always!
4th December 2019