What are the symptoms of depression?
According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV), depression, also called major depressive disorder or clinical depression, is a persistent low mood:
- not explained by another disorder or caused by substance use (e.g., alcohol, drugs, meds)
- not due to normal grief over the death of a loved one
- without manic episodes
- with at least five of the nine symptoms below most of the time for a continuous two weeks or more, and
- this is a change from your prior level of functioning. One of the five or more symptoms must be either (a) depressed mood, or (b) loss of interest:
- Depressed mood. Children and teens may be irritable.
- A significantly reduced level of interest in most or all activities.
- Weight fluctuations: a 5% or more change in weight over a month when not dieting. There may also be an increase or decrease in appetite. For children, this may be a lack of expected weight gain.
- Sleep disorders: difficulty falling or staying asleep, or sleeping more than usual.
- Behaviour that is agitated or slowed down.
- Fatigue or low energy.
- Feelings of worthlessness or extreme guilt.
- Reduced ability to think, concentrate, or make decisions.
- Frequent thoughts of death or suicide or attempted suicide.
These symptoms are a cause of great distress or create difficulty in functioning at home, work, or other important areas, they continue for more than two months, or they include frequent thoughts of worthlessness or suicide, symptoms that are psychotic, or behavior that is slowed down.
Depression affects twice as many women as men, and over the course of a lifetime, major depression will affect 10%-25% of women and 5%-12% of men. The average age of onset is the mid-20’s and having a parent or sibling with depression increases the risk of depression by 1.5-3 times the baseline risk. Two thirds of those with major depression will recover completely, the remaining third will not.
What is the conventional treatment for depression?
Conventional treatment for depression may include anti-depressant medications (SSRI’s like Zoloft, Celexa, Prozac etc, SNRI’s like Effexor, Pritiq, and Cymbalta, NDRI’s like Wellbutrin, Tricyclic Antidepressants and MAOI’s) and cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).
Medications can be very effective, but can also come with unwanted side effects such as weight gain, and low libido.
What is the naturopathic treatment of depression?
As a naturopathic doctor treating depression involves a thorough understanding all of the factors that may be contributing to the problem, such as:
Cortisol, DHEAs, testosterone, estradiol, allopregnanolone, DHT and androstenedione are hormones that have all been linked to depression. Naturopathic medicine offers a number of approaches to better balance hormones including diet, exercise, stress reduction, vitamins, minerals and herbs.
Serotonin, GABA, dopamine, epinephrine, and norepinephrine may all influence mood. Neurotransmitter balance requires an adequate supply of amino acids such as tyrosine, tryptophan and glutamic acid, as well as vitamin B6 and magnesium.
Work stress, relationship difficulties, family problems, alcoholism, drug use, terminal illness, bereavement can all contribute to feelings of hopelessness and depression.
Sleeplessness can contribute to fatigue, low motivation, and neurotransmitter and hormone imbalance. Healthy sleep hygiene as well as diet, vitamins, herbs and minerals that are conducive to good quality and quantity of sleep can help.
Underactive thyroid gland function or hypothyroidism can cause feelings of depression, along with low energy, weight gain, mental sluggishness and hair loss.
My job as a naturopathic doctor, is to dig deeply to unearth any of these factors that might be contributing to depression in order to address the root of the problem. Effective, lasting treatment requires a thorough understanding of the cause.
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