Keep depression at bay

The daily stress of living in a fast-paced world is taking a heavy toll on mental health. Manisha Jain explains the symptoms and remedies for depression.

FACT : People who have been subjected to trauma are more likely to be depressed in adulthood as they relive their childhood experiences through memories.

Stress and highly competitive schedules have rendered individual health and wellbeing extremely vulnerable in the present day. Continued stress with hardly any time for recreational activities and exercise, is taking a heavy toll on the nerves of individuals and also causing an alarming rise in depression and psychological disorders.

Depression affects the young office employee, student, and the elderly alike. Increasing consumerism and unflagging ambition to pursue career goals are making individuals increasingly lonely and isolated. The warmth and comfort of extended families is becoming a thing of the past, with more and more people opting for nuclear families. Adding to this are cut-throat competition and spiraling prices, and you have all the ingredients essential for high stress zones and depression.

Depression, or a general low feeling and of sadness, if of a short duration, can be attributed to a bad mood which wears off. But if the feeling persists and affects the person’s normal working and day-to-day life, then it requires medical intervention or counselling.

Depression is a growing health problem and one of the least understood diseases. It affects adults and children of all ages and can be very serious. Untreated depression may lead to suicide, which in America, is the ninth-leading cause of death and the third-leading cause of death in teenagers.

Newspapers remain filled with news of young students committing suicide over bad performance. In such cases, depression caused by intense feelings of low self-worth and failure leads to sudden reactions of suicide. This trend has, over the years, become a cause for alarm and concern on the part of teachers and parents alike. Counselling clinics and helplines always seem to fall short trying to keep up with the growing number of suicidal cases.

There are two types of depression:

Reactive
Endogenous.

Reactive depression usually gets triggered by a sudden life crisis. The symptoms may include sadness, poor concentration, feeling out of control, frustration, helplessness, lethargy, nervousness and self-blame.

Endogenous depression has most of the above symptoms, but is less understandable, as there appears to be no obvious cause.

Depression is linked with biochemical imbalances of neurotransmitters in the brain, particularly dopamine, serotonin and norepinephrine. For example, deficits in serotonin can generate feelings of fatigue, despair and nervousness, and excess norepinephrine can cause mania.

This neurochemical connection has resulted in the creation of anti-depressants that, according to popular belief, seem to be the only effective means of treating depression. These drugs artificially keep an adequate supply of neurotransmitters available to brain cells to lift mood and remove tension.

Doctors usually stress on maintaining a healthy body in order to enjoy a healthy lifestyle. So it is important to be on a wholesome diet which keeps the neurotransmitters in the brain adequate and in good supply.

A diet containing Vitamins B 1, B 3, B 6, B 12, C, A,  folic acid, calcium, magnesium, copper, and iron should be followed. The intake of caffeine, tannin, alcohol, nicotine and sugar should be stopped.

Amino acids, vitamins and minerals encourage neurotransmitter synthesis, and many studies have shown that nutrients are as effective as drugs in producing beneficial results. Pollutants, over-processed and chemically-altered foods, medical and recreational drugs and heavy metals are some of the known catalysts of depression.

Pschologists/ counsellors usually prescribe a nutritious diet in a regular routine to keep depression and anxiety at bay. Keeping busy and active prevents negative thoughts from entering the patient’s mind. Continued negativity can enhance depression, she adds.

Keeping a busy routine with recreational activities and enough exercise is recommended to defeat depression. One is also advised to keep a check on emotions, as negative emotions can cause intense depression in a person.

Research has established a link between depression and early childhood trauma. People who have been subjected to trauma are more likely to be depressed in adulthood as they relive their childhood experiences through their memories. They continue to release large amounts of a steroid called corticosterone which continues the stress response. Confronting the earlier trauma can reverse this process.

Therapy and counselling can address painful and negative childhood experiences.

Large helpings of love and attention are very effective in curing depression.

Ensuring that our bodies and minds are functioning at their optimum, goes a long way in preventing depression. Learn to balance the body through relaxation, exercise, meditation, sunlight, breathing, managing stress and positive thinking. One can actively employ visualisation and spiritual issues and keep a healthy lifestyle to keep depression at bay.

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