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12 Things You May Not Know About Depression

Written by Dr. Joseph Mercola

depression

While it’s highly unlikely that, if you’re an adult, you haven’t experienced depression of some sort during your lifetime, it’s probably safe to say that most adults don’t know these 12 things about depression, according to Everyday Health. Doctors diagnose depression when a patient has at least five of the following symptoms:

  • Depressed mood
  • Loss of pleasure in all or most activities
  • Significant weight change or change in appetite
  • Change in sleep • Change in activity
  • Fatigue or loss of energy
  • Diminished concentration
  • Feelings of guilt or worthlessness
  • Suicidality

That said, the following are things you might not know:

1. Depression has different triggers — U.S. health care providers report that diagnoses of clinical depression have increased by 33 percent in the past five years among privately-insured individuals. Some surprising causes of depression include feelings of overwhelming loneliness, being misunderstood and failing relationships. In fact, loneliness is now considered to be a public health threat as harmful as obesity and nearly as bad as smoking.

2. Genes don’t explain it all — While genetic predispositions to being depressed are a factor, it’s just one factor, and not a predominant one.

3. Depression affects the whole body — This is something I talk about often. If you’re not sure about the mind-body connection with depression, the National Institute of Mental health says depression is linked to a higher risk of Alzheimer’s disease, cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis and Type 2 diabetes, among other health conditions.

4. It might be a “gut feeling” — Gastrointestinal abnormalities have been linked to a variety of psychological problems, including anxiety and depression. Your gut is literally your second brain; your gut sends signals to which your brain responds, even if you’re conscious of it. Eating a fiber-rich diet and fermented foods can help balance your gut microbiome.

5. Imaging of depressed brains looks different — A June 2015 study showed that some of the structures and brain circuits work differently, and these differences can be mapped in brain imaging.

6. Depression is linked to other health conditions — From metabolic changes to hormone abnormalities to heart rate and blood circulation changes, as well as increased inflammation, these are some of the physical signs that accompany depression.

7. Not all depressed people look depressed — It’s true: Putting on a “happy face” may be just that. While studies show that just making it a point to smile can help elevate your mood, there’s a difference between the mask of happiness and the real thing. If you’re worried that someone you know might be depressed, check out the symptoms of depression above and offer help if you feel it necessary.

8. Exercise can help ease depression — The stimulation that movement gives your brain and body can go a long way toward making you feel better mentally as well as physically. Daily movement of some kind is absolutely necessary for optimal mental health and physical well-being.

9. Your doctor may prescribe multiple drugs to treat your depression — Drugs are the normal go-to strategy that doctors employ for “making” you feel less depressed. However, take note that antidepressant medications may do more harm than good, so be sure to discuss medications and their purposes thoroughly with your doctor before taking them.

Note: Many people believe depression is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain which, therefore, needs chemicals to treat. However, studies have repeatedly shown antidepressants work no better than placebo for mild to moderate depression, yet carry a significant risk of side effects.

10. Cognitive behavioral therapy is an important treatment — Because depression is more complex than chemical imbalances, cognitive behavior is an important part of treating it. Additionally, there are many alternatives to drugs including nutritional interventions, light therapy and, as stated above, exercise.

11. Simply warming up your body may help ease depression — Studies show that heat, in the form of sitting in a spa or just taking a warm bath or shower, can help ease depression.

12. Depression is a leading cause of disability — Worldwide, 350 million people suffer from depression, making it a leading cause of disability. Fortunately, you don’t have to suffer in silence. If you are feeling sad or depressed or lonely, seek out a counselor, a holistic health practitioner or psychiatrist, and start the journey toward healing.

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