Depression Let's Talk

Depression is a real illness. It is a common mental health problem that causes people to experience low mood, loss of interest or pleasure, feelings of guilt or low self-worth, disturbed sleep, low energy, and poor concentration. Depression is technically a mental disorder, but it also affects your physical health and well-being. Feeling sad or anxious at times is a normal part of life, but if these feelings stay more than two weeks they could be symptoms of depression. When a person has depression, it interferes with daily life and normal functioning. It can cause pain for both the person with depression and those who care about him or her. Major depressive disorder (MDD), a more advanced form of depression is considered a serious medical condition that may have a dramatic effect on your quality of life. You may lose interest in your favorite activities, have difficulty sleeping, or experience a change in appetite. Persistent sadness, irritability, and frustration can also change your relationships with family and friends, or interfere with your ability to concentrate at work or school.

Adding certain foods to your diet can make a difference. Although there is no specific diet to relieve symptoms of MDD, some foods may provide a much-needed mood boost.

Symptoms

Depression symptoms may vary among people but generally encompass a feeling of sadness or hopelessness. These can include:

  1. Tiredness and loss of energy
  2. Sadness that does not go away
  3. Loss of self-confidence and self-esteem
  4. Difficulty concentrating
  5. Not being able to enjoy things that are usually pleasurable of interesting
  6. Feeling anxious all the time
  7. Avoiding other people, sometimes even your close friends
  8. Feelings of helplessness and hopelessness
  9. Sleeping problems – difficulties in getting off to sleep or waking up much earlier than usual
  10. Very strong feelings of guilt or worthlessness
  11. Finding it hard to function at work/college/school
  12. Loss of appetite
  13. Loss of sex drive and/or sexual problems
  14. Physical aches and pains
  15. Thinking about suicide and death
  16. Self-harm

Depression Factors


There are many factors may play a role in depression, including genetics, brain biology and chemistry, and life events such as trauma, loss of a loved one, a difficult relationship, an early childhood experience, or any stressful situation. Depression can happen at any age, but often begins in the teens or early 20 years or 30 years. Most chronic mood and anxiety disorders in adults begin as high levels of anxiety in children. In fact, high levels of anxiety as a child could mean a higher risk of depression as an adult.




Depression can co-occur with other serious medical illnesses such as diabetes, cancer, heart disease. Depression can make these conditions worse and vice versa. Sometimes medications taken for these illnesses may cause side effects that contribute to depression. A doctor experienced in treating these complicated illnesses can help work out the best treatment strategy.


Types of Depression

There are several types of depressive disorders.



Major depression: Severe symptoms that interfere with the ability to work, sleep, study, eat, and enjoy life.

Persistent depressive disorder: A depressed mood that lasts for at least 2 years.

Psychotic depression: It occurs when a person has severe depression plus some form of psychosis, such as having disturbing false beliefs or a break with reality (delusions), hearing or seeing upsetting things that others cannot hear or see (hallucinations).

Postpartum depression: It is much more serious than the “baby blues” that many women experience after giving birth, when hormonal and physical changes and the new responsibility of caring for a newborn can be overwhelming. It is estimated that 10 to 15 percent of women experience postpartum depression after giving birth.

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD): It is characterized by the onset of depression during the winter months, when there is less natural sunlight. The depression generally lifts during spring and summer. SAD may be effectively treated with light therapy, but nearly half of those with SAD do not get better with light therapy alone. Antidepressant medication and psychotherapy can reduce SAD symptoms, either alone or in combination with light therapy.

Bipolar disorder: It is different from depression. The reason it is included in this list is because someone with bipolar disorder experiences episodes of extreme low moods (depression). But a person with bipolar disorder also experiences extreme high moods (called “mania”).

Atypical depression: Atypical depression is a sub-type of major depression that involves several specific symptoms, including increased appetite or weight gain, sleepiness or excessive sleep, marked fatigue or weakness, moods that are strongly reactive to environmental circumstances, and feeling extremely sensitive to rejection.

Affects of Depression

Not everyone who is depressed experiences every symptom. Some people experience only a few symptoms. Some people have many. The severity and frequency of symptoms, and how long they last, will vary depending on the individual and his or her particular illness. Symptoms may also vary depending on the stage of the illness.


Women

Women with depression do not all experience the same symptoms. However, women with depression typically have symptoms of sadness, worthlessness, and guilt.

Depression is more common among women than among men. Biological, life cycle, hormonal, and psycho-social factors that are unique to women may be linked to their higher depression rate. For example, women are especially vulnerable to developing postpartum depression after giving birth, when hormonal and physical changes and the new responsibility of caring for a newborn can be overwhelming.


Men

Men often experience depression differently than women. While women with depression are more likely to have feelings of sadness, worthlessness, and excessive guilt, men are more likely to be very tired, irritable, lose interest in once-pleasurable activities, and have difficulty sleeping.

Men may turn to alcohol or drugs when they are depressed. They also may become frustrated, discouraged, irritable, angry, and sometimes abusive. Some men may throw themselves into their work to avoid talking about their depression with family or friends, or behave recklessly.


Children & Teen

Girls and boys are equally likely to develop depression. A child with depression may pretend to be sick, refuse to go to school, cling to a parent, or worry that a parent may die. Because normal behaviors vary from one childhood stage to another, it can be difficult to tell whether a child is just going through a temporary “phase” or is suffering from depression. The teen years can be tough. Teens are forming an identity apart from their parents, grappling with gender issues and emerging sexuality, and making independent decisions for the first time in their lives. Occasional bad moods are to be expected, but depression is different.


Depression is Treatable 

Healthy Eating for Depression

Eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, low-fat dairy foods, and lean meats, poultry, and fish can go a long way toward lowering your risk of physical health problems. Foods that are rich in essential vitamins, minerals, complex carbohydrates, protein, and fatty acids is key to keeping your brain in good working order.

Essential nutrients

Your brain, like other organs, responds to what you eat and drink. It needs several vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients to stay healthy. If you deprive your brain of these essential nutrients, it can not function properly. This can raise your risk of mental health problems.

Vitamins and minerals
Vitamins and minerals play a key role in your brain health. Vitamins that are particularly important for your brain include:


  1. vitamin C
  2. vitamin D
  3. B vitamins

To function properly, your brain also depends on minerals, such as:


  1. magnesium
  2. selenium
  3. zinc

Complex carbohydrates
Carbohydrates serve a few purposes in nourishing your brain. At the most basic level, your brain depends on glucose for energy. This simple sugar is derived from carbohydrates in your diet. Carbohydrates also help stimulate your brain’s production of the feel-good neurotransmitter serotonin. Rather than snacking on sweets and processed grains, choose complex carbohydrates, such as those found in:


  1. fruits and vegetables
  2. whole-grain foods
  3. legumes

Your body converts these carbohydrates into glucose more slowly than simple carbohydrates, which are found in processed sugars and grains. As a result, complex carbohydrates provide a more stable and consistent flow of fuel to your brain.

Amino acids
Amino acids are the building blocks of protein. They are essential to your brain’s production of neurotransmitters. These are a type of chemical messenger that carry signals between your nerve cells.

Fatty acids
Fatty acids are also critical to your brain health. A large part of your brain is made up of fat, including omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Your body can not make these essential fatty acids on its own. Instead, it absorbs them from foods you eat. It is best to get an equal balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in your diet.

Water
One final important nutrient for your brain is water. It makes up the majority of your brain mass. Even mild dehydration can lead to mental health symptoms, such as irritability and loss of concentration.

Foods to eat

To help your brain function properly, eat a variety of foods that are rich in essential nutrients, including:


  1. Vitamin C: citrus fruits, leafy green vegetables, and other fruits and vegetables
  2. Vitamin D: salmon, cod, shrimp, eggs, and fortified milk, juice, and cereal products
  3. B vitamins: red meat, fish, eggs, dairy products, whole grains, and leafy green vegetables
  4. magnesium, selenium, and zinc: nuts, seeds, whole grains, green vegetables, and fish
  5. Complex carbohydrates: whole grain breads and cereals, brown rice, quinoa, millet, legumes, and starchy vegetables, such potatoes, corn, peas, and winter squash
  6. Tryptophan: lean red meat, poultry, eggs, and beans
  7. Phenylalanine: lean red meat, chicken, eggs, dairy products, soybeans, and seeds
  8. Omega-3 fatty acids: salmon, trout, tuna, beans, walnuts, broccoli, cauliflower, spinach, cantaloupe, chia and hemp seeds, and canola and flax seed oil
  9. Omega-6 fatty acids:poultry, eggs, grains, and vegetable oils


Foods to avoid

Try to avoid or limit these foods and beverages:


  1. caffeinated drinks, such as tea, coffee, and soft drinks
  2. alcoholic drinks
  3. sugary foods
  4. deep-fried foods
  5. refined and processed foods

Many refined and processed foods, sugary foods, and deep-fried foods are high in calories and low in brain-healthy nutrients. Eating too many of them can raise your risk of physical and mental health problems.


Other Treatments 

Good Night Sleep
The relationship between depression and sleep is very complicated. Depression often makes it harder to fall asleep or sleep through the night. Yet some people develop depression because of a lack of sleep. Improving your sleep quality and ensuring you receive adequate rest can help you manage depression. Limit your intake of caffeine during the day to help you fall asleep faster at night.


Also, avoid or shorten the length of daytime naps. Sleeping too much during the day also makes it harder to fall asleep at night. You should avoid stimulation before bed, such as exercising or playing video games. And it is important to create a comfortable sleep environment. Darken the room and less noise, which means no sleeping with the radio or television on.


Exercise
Exercise may be the last thing on your mind when you are battling  with depression. If you force yourself to engage in physical activities, you may feel better.


Exercise and other types of physical activity can be a natural treatment. When you are active, your body increases the production of hormones like endorphins and serotonin. Higher levels of these hormones can improve mood and relieve depression symptoms. If possible, aim for at least 30 minutes of exercise every day or most days of the week.


Schedule “me time”
Anxiety and depression can go hand-in-hand. Anxiety can set in if you have a hectic schedule and you are juggling too many personal responsibilities. You may neglect making time for yourself, which is dangerous because there is not an opportunity to relax.


To reduce the risk of anxiety and depression, schedule alone time for yourself every day if possible. Even if it is only 30 minutes or an hour, do an activity you enjoy or treat yourself. Read a book, soak in the bathtub, or sit alone on your patio with a glass of iced tea. Do whatever makes you happy for these few moments each day. This clears your mind and recharges your body, giving you the mental strength to cope.


Soak in the sun
A vitamin D deficiency is also linked to depression. You can correct a deficiency with supplements and certain foods, such as:
  1. liver
  2. mushrooms
  3. orange juice
  4. salmon
  5. tuna
Another option is to spend a little time outside and get natural vitamin D from the sun.

Go for a 20- to 30-minute walk, garden, or enjoy other outdoor activities. This is especially important if you also have seasonal affective disorder. This type of depression is common during the winter due to shorter days and less sunlight.

Takeaway

Depression can affect you physically and mentally. When you are dealing with emotional highs and lows, finding ways to relax and recharge can help you gain control of your mental state. Never neglect self-care. Eating healthy is important to not only your physical health, but your mental well-being too. Incorporating a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy foods, and lean meats, poultry, and fish into your diet can help you stay healthy and energized. 

[View More: How to reduce Stress] [View More: Anxiety Management]

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