Depression in human beings has a long history, first being recognized in Ancient Greece, where it was given the name ‘melancholy’. The actual dictionary definition of this word is “to feel sadness, when there is no obvious cause” and in modern times, this word has given way to terms such as ‘clinical depression’ or ‘major depression’ and doctors are quite happy to prescribe pills to help the afflicted person combat this state of mind. Historically though, the treatment was not to prescribe such drugs, and instead to adjust one’s lifestyle which was thought to help.
If no clear cause of depression is present, then it can be questionable whether prescribing any medicine at all would help long term. There are many ways to combat depression nowadays, and many people are still loathe to take pills from their doctor, indeed as a result of this attitude, there are a wealth of well-being websites on the internet, as well as thousands of books on the subject that all offer support, and ways which do not include prescription drugs, to help a person with this affliction.
Seminal Work On Depression
The seventeenth century scholar Robert Burton wrote a comprehensive book – entitled The Anatomy of Melancholy- which was seen as the first major attempt to put into a cohesive set of writings on the subject, and was based on his own experiences, as well as numerous other theories and his own thoughts. Rather than advocate drugs, the author concluded that the best course of action was a positive lifestyle change, which included:
- A healthy diet
- Enough sleep
- Listening to music
- A ‘meaningful job’ or employment that gave a sense of achievement
- Confiding in close friends
As was fairly common in these times, other authors came up with ideas such as an imbalance in the soul, dark energy increasing etc, but to be frank, these were a little off the mark. Remember this was not long after women and men – who were thought to be ‘witches’ and ‘wizards’ respectively- were burnt at the stake for their belief in magic. Today, we can see that Robert Burton’s views were fairly accurate compared to most of the other ideas put forward, but even he could not foresee today’s Pharmaceutical Industry’s role in depression, a role which allows it to make a massive worldwide profit from encouraging people to take their pills for a condition that is essentially un-diagnosable. That is to say, no test or scan will tell a doctor that a person has depression, and he must work to a criterion to make a determination, and it is very important to keep in mind that the doctor will receive payments from the Pharmaceutical companies for prescribing their drugs to his patients.
Indeed, it is fairly common in this day and age for doctors all over the globe to simply prescribe these drugs, which can cause chemical imbalances in the brain, rather than to encourage their patients to change their sedate lifestyle to something a little more active and stimulating.
Modern Methods Of Fighting Depression
With the rise of the internet in today’s age, more and more people are able to put out their own thoughts and views about this affliction. There are many sites that offer alternative help and practical advice as oppose to prescription drugs, most of them based on ideas including:
- Exercising. Although the link between relieving depression and physical exercise is not very well understood, the current theory is that exercising raises one’s body temperature, encouraging the brain to release feel good chemicals, which ward off the effects of depression, but the exercise must be done daily, and for around thirty to sixty minutes each session. Indeed a 2005 study named “Archives of Internal Medicine” concluded that mild depression and its symptoms can be combated through a brisk walk every day for half an hour.
- Magnesium. Links have been found between a lack of magnesium in one’s body and the effects of depression. The body needs magnesium to do many things, including relaxing and contracting the muscles. A study suggested that patients who suffered from major depression who were all given magnesium twice a day felt their condition improved significantly within seven days. Magnesium can be obtained by the body as part of a healthy and balanced diet under normal circumstances.
- Vitamin B And C. Both these vitamins are important to the body’s well-being, and both can help to alleviate symptoms of depression. Folic acid is one of the B vitamins, and is very often prescribed to pregnant women, this is because they are used to produce brain chemicals that regulate mood and help to transmit messages through our brains. Vitamin C cannot be directly synthesized by the body and it relies on external resources, such as fresh orange juice. This vitamin is also used in the production of a neurotransmitter within the brain that is connected to our moods.
- Taking the time to relax. The practice of finding peaceful and serene surroundings, and closing your eyes and simply relaxing would be called meditating by some people, while others would simply say they are enjoying the peace and quiet, it all amounts to the same; reduced stress. Participants tend to have better control over their breathing, leading to a relaxed and stress free state of mind.
What Kind Of Drugs Are Prescribed For Depression?
The drugs administered are known as Anti – Depressants. There are many kinds of these types of drugs, some of which include drugs like SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) TCAs (tricyclic antidepressants) and MOIs (mono-amine oxidase inhibitors). While every single medical drug comes with some kind of side effects, the ones that come from taking these antidepressants can be particularly harsh, and indeed caused many people to stop their course of treatment half-way through. Some of the more common side effects experienced are nausea, anxiety, insomnia, weigh gain, constipation and diarrhoea to name but a few.
Some doctors, who are in the minority rather than the majority, will prescribe these drugs with the advice to try a small change in lifestyle for example, to go swimming, which will not only give the body some exercise, but will allow the person to get out of the house, and these factors alongside the use of the drugs will be hoped to help enough to allow the person to reduce the levels of depression on a long term basis. Some more advice is:
- While it is important, and often the first step, visiting your doctor should be a prelude to visiting a qualified psychiatrist, who will be an expert in mental health, and more likely to be familiar with the latest medical developments in this field.
- Be patient, as finding the treatment of drugs that suits you the best is a trial and error process so you should be prepared to wait a little to see which are best for you personally.
- Keep a record of the side effects, and discuss any ones which are affecting you with your psychiatrist who may want to switch to another type.
- Visit therapy sessions, which will actually deal with the root of the cause of the depression, as the drugs will only alleviate the symptoms. Therapy will give an individual a fresh look at their behavior patterns, and look to change the negative ones with positive ones, as well as other techniques to change thinking behavior.
Follow the instructions closely regarding the taking of the medication. A good psychiatrist will emphasize this point, but it is very important to not skip taking the medicine when you begin to feel better. Also, missing out taking a dose during the day is not recommended, as your brain needs a constant, equal flow of the drug to gain any benefit, and the dose and frequency will be determined by the doctor, taking this into account.
Foods To Take To Help
Eating a healthy and balanced diet will give your body all the vitamins and nutrients needed to produce all of the substances required to operate in balance, giving the best chance of reducing levels of depression. Getting enough of things like essential omega oils, and vitamins B and C, as well as boosting your serotonin intakes through amino acids which are found in fish, eggs beans and meat, are considered critical to ensure a balanced diet. There is also good evidence to suggest a direct link between a person’s mood and their blood sugar levels.
Balancing your own blood sugar level may well help if you suffer from depression. Carbohydrate foods are broken down by the body into glucose, and the brain needs glucose to operate correctly. An unbalance of the glucose levels can affect mood. Other conditions, such as intolerance to certain food groups – such as wheat – can adversely affect mood. Studies suggested that people who had a previously undiagnosed intolerance to Coeliac were at an increased risk (of up to 80%) of suffering depression. In the UK alone, it is thought that hundreds of thousands of people suffer from this condition unknowingly.
People who suffer from depression can help to alleviate their symptoms through changing their normally sedentary lifestyle, and changing some aspects of their diets. Visiting friends and chatting about things that can affect you and your moods can help you to feel less isolated, and good friends will listen and offer bits of advice. Meeting for a meal or coffee, or to walk a pet dog together can give one a feeling of being appreciated, which can lift the mood and inspire positive thoughts. Trying to change a small part of your diet may also give palpable results. If small changes are made, and one notices these, it will help to inspire them to continue, and to try other changes and advice. As the curative process may be lengthy, a patient and positive foundation upon which to work is the best way to permanently eliminate high levels of depression.