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Depression is a treatable, psychological disease. Not simply an emotional problem, depression is an imbalance of the chemicals in our brains which regulate thoughts and moods. Most people occasionally feel sad or discouraged, but these emotions are a part of the ups and downs of everyday life. These feelings usually dissipate within days.
However, many people experience lasting, intense feelings of sadness or hopelessness. These feelings may be accompanied by physical discomfort or illness and an inability to perform ordinary activities, and can last for several weeks, months or years. Someone experiencing these symptoms may be suffering from depression, also known as clinical or major depression.
Unfortunately, depression is unlikely to go away on its own, and many people have shown reluctance to seek medical help for their symptoms. These individuals may be experiencing feelings of isolation, shame, or believe that they will eventually feel better on their own. The truth is, depression does not go away on its own, but it can be treated and, in most cases, cured. If you or a loved one are experiencing these symptoms, there are many treatment options available.
Although the precise cause of depression is yet to be determined, it is believed that depression is influenced by the interactions of various biological, medical and environmental factors.
Although many people with depression have no known family history of it, there is a great deal of evidence suggesting that genetics play a significant role. A specific gene responsible for the disorder has not yet been identified, but the disease shows a tendency to run in families.
Neurotransmitters – the messengers between the nerves in our brains and bodies – regulate our thoughts and moods. Studies have shown that people with depression often have a deficiency in the neurotransmitter serotonin, dopamine or norepinephrine, whereas cortisol, the “stress” hormone, is often seen at higher levels in people with depression. Estrogen deficiencies have been associated with depression in women, while low levels of testosterone may be a factor for men.
A number of medical factors have also been associated with depression. Patients with serious or chronic illnesses (such as cancer, HIV/AIDS, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, kidney or heart disease) may have an increased likelihood of suffering from depression. Certain medications, such as beta-blockers, barbiturates, corticosteroids, and opioids, appear to cause depressive symptoms. Hypothyroidism, as well, may cause chemical imbalances that influence depression.
Depressive episodes are often set off by environmental triggers. When people with the characteristics that predispose them to depression face stressful and difficult situations, these events may cause an episode of depression, although many who have previously experienced episodes of depression may suffer another episode with no obvious trigger.
It is common for women who have recently given birth to experience symptoms of depression for a short period. However, if a woman is experiencing an extended period of depressive symptoms after childbirth, she may be suffering from post-partum depression and should seek treatment and support.
A number of common warning signs of depression include:
If you or a loved one are experiencing symptoms of depression, it is important to seek treatment as soon as possible. There are a number of laboratory tests available that may help you pinpoint the cause of these symptoms.
A healthy diet is critical to maintaining good physical and mental health. A number of vital nutrients influence our thoughts and moods, such as the B vitamins, calcium, magnesium, iron and vitamin C. Although a nutritious diet is important, it is often difficult to obtain all the nutrients our bodies need from our diet alone, and supplements can help make up for what our bodies lack.
There are a number of natural remedies and supplements that can combat depression, without the dangerous and unpleasant side effects of conventional antidepressants.
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