THE BLACK DOG OF DEPRESSION
I wish to explore a subject of sensitivity this month in light of the trying times we are still going through. Depression is both difficult to diagnose and often misunderstood state of des-ease. I use dis-ease in the old context as there is no blood test nor x-ray that that can be done to ‘see’ the problem, just the constant sense of lack of hope and an inability to find the joy in just being alive.
Depression is not feeling ‘sad’. There are many normal human reasons to be sad, and sadness in itself is an important emotion that allows us to look within at our lives with it’s trials and tribulations to grow in empathy, understanding and compassion for our own journey in this life and others.
A clinical diagnosis of depression is based on many factors and can be assessed by a Clinical Psychologist or Psychiatrist. Along with a feeling of constant sadness, fatigue, teariness, and/or angry outbursts, there is often a history of headaches, isolation and disconnectedness from your family or community.
It often arises that a crisis will bring out to the forefront problems that we were once able to suppress, so it is vital to seek advice from health professionals.
Some people are concerned that a diagnosis may result if a lifetime of drugs or may worries about side effects or effects on performance. This is not always the case and for some, may be just a ‘bridge’ to get us through. In many cases counselling helps a great deal and can give you tools to deal with powerful, overwhelming emotions.
There are also many gentle ways to assist the road back to good mental health. Levels of Anti-depressant use has soared during the last 12 months and this sad news as these powerful medications are designed for ‘clinic depression,’ while the sadness that many experience now are well justified. So many areas of our lives were affected by the lock-downs, travel restrictions, news, fear and watching the whole world being affected. Isolation and over reliance on computers have greatly affected many young people as well with Social media platforms have created the perfect storm of lack of human contact, over-exposure to more information that can be mentally processed and Dopamine addiction (dopamine is released every time you get a ‘Like’ or ‘followed’ etc) and then depression follows as the mind cannot stay in this state of over stimulation.
There are so many important ways to help ourselves and our families. Team sports have made a great come back as it gets our natural endorphins pumping and remind us how great connecting with other humans are. As are Yoga, music, gardening groups and other community programmes. Check out your local neighbourhood house and see what courses may interest you, they are a great way to get to know people and get creative at the same time.
Meditation is amazing, it can be a simple guided meditation or just sitting and watching nature with a focus on good conscious breathing and works for young and old. There are also numerous good herbal formulations. A massive study has shown that St Johns Wort is just as effective as SSRI drugs that is a regularly used treatment now in Germany, with fewer side effects and is not addictive. Sam E is an amino acid that your body makes Serotonin from and acts in a similar fashion to anti-depressants without side effects.
Vitamin D and Fish Oils have showed to help in many clinical trials and will also assist your immune system. I recommend taking them this winter as we have had so little sun over summer. A good range of Chinese medicine formulas can also be very effective, as is physical treatments such as Acupuncture that have good research in assisting people with mild to moderate depression, as well as massage and other physical therapies.
It is still vital that a health professional assess what may work for you and please never take any medication unless prescribed. Ensure you eat real fresh foods and lots of nuts and seeds (more on that in another article) get regular exercise to bring you body’s own endorphins up to better levels and re-connect with old friends and have a laugh, Sing, dance treat yourself to a nice treatment. Herbal medicines are effective only in mild to moderate depression and all treatment should be accompanied by professional counselling. Remember a diagnosis is NOT a life sentence, but the first step towards healing and a happier life.
If you feel you need help please contact Lifeline Australia - 13 11 14
Or for children please call the Kids Helpline - 1800 55 1800
Until Next time
Dr Angela Palmer