In the U.S., there are an estimated 16 million adults who suffer from a major depressive episode every year—that means someone you know has likely been affected by depression in one way or another. Approximately one in 10 Americans will experience a case of depression at some point in their lives, while nearly 20 million Americans are diagnosed with clinical depression each year.
5 Types of Depression
Depression is categorized as a mood disorder; the type of depression an individual has will largely determine what type of medical treatment they should receive.
1. Major depression: Major depression is the most common form of depression. Low levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin can lead to depressive, anxious, irritable, guilt-ridden, or scattered feelings. Other common signs include hopelessness, problems with concentration, extreme sadness, lack of energy, changes in sleep or eating patterns, or suicidal thoughts. One episode of major depression can typically last from four to eight months—the episode can be shortened with proper treatment.
2. Bipolar disorder: Bipolar disorder is also known as manic depression, and it affects about 5.7 million American adults (2.6% of the population). There are several neurotransmitter deficiencies linked with bipolar disorder, including serotonin, acetylcholine, dopamine, histamine, norepinephrine, noradrenaline, or gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). Bipolar disorder triggers include gluten, casein, sugar, caffeine, stress, heavy metal toxicity, oxidative stress, and deficiencies in important nutrients such as omega-3 fatty acids, B vitamins, or magnesium. Symptoms of bipolar disorder generally include impulsive behavior, excitement, racing thoughts, and mood swings of sadness (i.e. from depression to euphoria).
3. Seasonal affective disorder: During the dark winter months, four to six percent of the American population will suffer from seasonal affective disorder (SAD) due to the lack of sunlight. These people tend to feel sad and crave sleep, sugar, and carbohydrates. Other symptoms include poor concentration, weight gain, increased irritability, and fatigue.
4. Dysthymia disorder: Dysthymia is a common form of depression that is often unknown, and it affects about two percent of Americans. It is considered the less severe form of major depression. People will experience symptoms of fatigue, hopelessness, indecisiveness, depression, low self-esteem, lack of concentration, or a dysphoric mood (feeling chronically sad). Adults can typically experience at least two of these symptoms daily for two consecutive months within a two-year period. Dysthymia is more common in women, and it can be caused by brain imbalances, life stresses, and illness such as diabetes or heart disease.
5. Atypical depression: Atypical depression is the most misunderstood form of depression, and it is often under-diagnosed by doctors. Possible causes of atypical depression include a neurotransmitter imbalance, sudden life events, or a traumatic childhood event like loss of a parent or abuse. Common symptoms of depression include oversensitivity to criticism, a heavy feeling in your legs and arms, and an increased desire to sleep and eat.
Further types of depression include premenstrual dysphoric disorder, postpartum depression, and psychotic depression. People can also suffer from depression after a stressful life event—this is sometimes known as situational depression.
10 Best Natural Treatments for Depression
The conventional treatment for depression is antidepressants; however, they may be considered ineffective for people with mild to moderate depression. As a result, people may choose to explore non-drug treatments for depression. There are several natural remedies for depression that are safe and effective:
1. Increase your omega-3 fatty acid intake: Deficiencies in omega-3 fatty acids are often associated with depressive symptoms. Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) in particular is considered a natural serotonin booster, and studies show that it can improve mood better than antidepressants. The best dietary sources of EPA include wild salmon, herring, or mackerel.
2. Magnesium and calcium: Magnesium and calcium together are both effective for depression. Magnesium deficiency may lead to depression symptoms. Calcium is also known to help regulate nervous system impulses, and it is important for neurotransmitter production. Excessive amounts of calcium will often lead to calcification; therefore, magnesium is necessary to prevent calcium deposits and precipitation.
3. Balance your blood sugar: Depressive disorders are often associated with diabetes; it’s important to balance your blood sugar with a low-glycemic index diet. Try to consume low-glycemic vegetables, such as kale, cucumber, broccoli, arugula, artichokes, and cabbage. Low-glycemic grains include quinoa, wild rice, amaranth, and buckwheat.
4. Get treated with acupuncture: Clinical studies show that acupuncture treatment can help alleviate depression by calming the nervous system. In a 2013 study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, electro-acupuncture treatment was shown to have a similar effect to the antidepressant fluoxetine (Prozac) for depression.
5. Practice meditation: Meditation is also a natural treatment for depression. In a 2014 study from The Permanente Journal, transcendental meditation was found to improve depressive symptoms in support staff and teachers who work at a therapeutic school for students with behavior issues.
6. Benefit from 5-HTP supplementation: The amino acid tryptophan is responsible for the production of serotonin. Tryptophan will convert to 5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) before it produces serotonin. Several studies have found that 5-HTP is as effective as antidepressants for depression and it is less expensive with fewer side effects.
7. Discover your food allergies: The association between fatigue, depression, and food allergies is linked with a syndrome called allergic toxemia. Food allergies or sensitivities can cause symptoms of depression, mood swings, irritability, and fatigue. Possible food sensitivities or allergy tests include the meridian stress assessment, bio-analysis/bio-energetic feedback testing, an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) blood test, or food elimination diet.
8. Herbal remedies: Herbal remedies that have shown to help improve depression include saffron, St. John’s wort, lavender, ashwagandha, oatstraw, and ginkgo biloba.
9. Visit a body-centered psychotherapist: A body-centered psychotherapist will use a holistic approach to therapy. They use tools such as hypnosis, Reiki, or qigong healing to help rid the body of emotional blocks.
10. Practice yoga: If you’re feeling depressed, it may help to head to a yoga studio for a restorative yoga class—practicing yoga is a relaxing, calming way to provide relief for depression and feelings of anxiety. Some of the best yoga postures that can alleviate anxious and depressive symptoms include a handstand, mountain pose with arms held overhead, downward-facing dog, chair backbend, shoulder-stand with a chair, and a supported bridge pose over bolsters.
Bonus! 5 Homeopathic Remedies to Treat Depression
Homeopathy is also known to have a positive impact for people with depression. In a recent study published in the journal PLOS ONE, researchers found that homeopathic remedies for depression were more effective than the common antidepressant fluoxetine. In the study, homeopathy improved menopausal symptoms associated with depression, but fluoxetine did not.
In another study published in the journal Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine, researchers concluded that homeopathy was useful for patients with mild to severe symptoms of anxiety or mood disorders. The following are some of the best homeopathic remedies for depression:
1. Ignatia amara: The person who would take ignatia amara may seem moody, defensive, and guarded—but this is mainly a result of trying to avoid appearing too vulnerable. These people tend to experience headaches, insomnia, and abdominal or back cramps.
2. Aurum metallicum: Aurum metallicum is the recommended remedy for serious and work-focused individuals. They typically become depressed after they fail and can experience feelings of anger, humiliation, and guilt, along with violent outbursts and suicidal thoughts.
3. Sepia: Sepia is considered an appropriate remedy for an individual who is cold and emotionally closed. The person typically feels at home with solitude and silence; however, they feel comfortable when people are readily available for them. They also tend to be very sarcastic and critical.
4. Pulsatilla nigricans: The person that benefits from pulsatilla nigricans requires a lot of comfort and attention. They may have a gentle and sweet manner, but anticipation, jealously, and grief can quickly lead this individual to experience depressive symptoms.
5. Natrum muraticum: Most private people will benefit from natrum muraticum. This person often suffers from deep-seated emotional wounds; they will suppress their grief in silence. They are also prone to self-blame and will dwell on past painful situations.
6. SAMe: Another natural remedy that has proven to ease depression symptoms is S-adenosylmethionine (SAMe)—this is a chemical that is naturally found in the body, but is available as a supplement.
The Final Word: What Else Can You Do?
This may be difficult for those who enjoy a morning cup of coffee, but it can be beneficial to avoid stimulants that could affect the brain, like alcohol or caffeine. Make sure your diet is rich in B vitamins, chromium, zinc, vitamin C, vitamin D, and selenium. Finally, don’t forget to speak with your doctor, a friend, or a loved one about any depressive symptoms you may be experiencing. You are never alone.
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