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Feel-Good Treatments for Depression

Posted 08-28-2014 04:50 PM by ChristaIB
Updated 08-28-2014 05:25 PM by ChristaIB

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Following the tragic loss of Robin Williams, a spotlight has been placed on the subject of depression. From the outside, the 63-year-old actor and comedian seemed to be all smiles and in good spirits. He lit up any room he entered and brought the unimaginable to life through his fine-tuned acting abilities. To say the least, he was a star. But behind closed doors--as divulged by family and friends--he was battling severe depression. On August 11, 2014, Williams was pronounced dead after an apparent suicide.

What could have been done to save Williams? This question has been posed many times in the nearly two weeks since his passing. Depression is real, and its effect on the human condition can be devastating. That's why it's so important for those who are feeling depressed to seek professional help and not try to battle it alone. If you or a loved one are dealing with depression, there are treatments that can lift you back up and get you onto the path of recovery.

About Depression

Life can be stressful, and it can deal you a number of blows. We are human, and emotions are a part of who we are. So, it's reasonable to feel sad, angry, anxious or depressed when we are faced with setbacks. However, these feelings are usually temporary, and when we've had a chance to distance ourselves from a situation, those feelings subside and we return to "normal."

Depression is more than being in a temporary rut or slump--it involves negative feelings (e.g. sadness, emptiness and hopelessness) that last for two or more weeks without letting up, and are often accompanied by the following symptoms:
  • Pessimism
  • Anxiousness
  • A lack of motivation and energy
  • Loss of joy, especially when it comes to things that used to bring happiness
  • An inability to carry out simple tasks, like getting up in the morning or taking a shower
  • Mood swings and crying spells
  • Loss of interest in normal daily activities
  • No appetite, which can cause weight loss
  • Food binges, which can lead to weight gain
  • Lack of sleep or oversleeping
  • An inability to be productive in school, work, or everyday activities
  • Feelings of worthlessness and guilty
  • Loss of judgment and irrational thinking
  • Thoughts of suicide or making a suicide attempt
  • Headaches and body aches
  • Digestive problems

Depression can occur suddenly and with no forewarning, or it may build up gradually. In the latter case, you may notice that over time you have withdrawn from people and things that once brought you joy. Life-altering events, like the loss of a loved one or loss of a job, may trigger or cause depression. Feeling down or blue may also be the result of lifestyle choices (e.g. substance abuse), a hormonal balance or mental health disorder (e.g. bipolar or eating disorders).

Getting to the Bottom of Depression

If you or a loved one are experiencing the above symptoms on most days for two weeks or more, you could be dealing with an episode of depression. Fortunately, there is hope; treatments are available that can help boost your mood.
  • Knowing you are not alone can be the first step in finding relief from depression. Talking to a good friend or a trusted healthcare provider can be a great start in your healing process. A qualified social worker, therapist, or doctor can provide counseling services to help you manage your life better and lead you out of depression. Talk therapy can be instrumental in treating depression.
  • Some people suffer from chemical imbalances that cause depression. Talk to your doctor or psychiatrist about prescription medications that can alleviate your symptoms.
  • Some patients who experience milder depression find that herbal supplements such as St. Johnís Wort can reduce anxiety and elevate moods. Talk to your qualified healthcare provider about medications, including herbal and natural supplements, and how to safely find a balance that is right for you.
  • Along with talk therapy and taking prescribed medication or supplements, lifestyle changes can go a long way in both easing the symptoms of depression and in preventing depression. A healthy diet can actually improve your mood and outlook on life. The following foods can help naturally increase your levels of serotonin, the feel-good hormone: bananas, kiwi, cherries, flaxseed oil, eggs, beans and turkey. Junk food, fatty foods, or sugary foods, on the other hand, can compromise your health and thereby suppress levels of serotonin.
  • Like a healthy diet, regular moderate exercise can help you feel good! Numerous studies have shown that exercise can be as effective as medication in treating mild to moderate forms of depression. Exercise reduces stress and increases the level of various feel-good chemicals in your brains (e.g. endorphins). An elevated body temperature from exercise may also have a calming effect on the body. Exercise, like yoga and pilates, can help take your mind off your worries and give you a more positive and hopeful attitude.

If you suffer from depression, know that you are not alone. Millions of people have found relief from depression with a combination of talk therapy, medication, supplements and/or positive healthy lifestyle choices. There is a light at the end of the dark tunnel of depression--and hope.

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