Depression has always been a hot topic of discussion and with the recent death of actor/comedian, Robin Williams; it seems to have people talking even more. Let’s face it; we all get “depressed” from time to time. The daily demands we face are often enough to stress us out and damper our moods. Symptoms don’t always, automatically, equal depression either, but regardless, if you find yourself sinking into a deep funk that you are struggling to climb out of, then it’s time to examine the possible causes and explore some solutions before it gets out of hand!
This is the part where things get tricky!
Depression is such a confusing topic for many people; it’s riddled with hearsay, opinions, clever marketing ploys and the like. To make matters worse, many doctors have no trouble “helping” you by handing medication out like candy. “Oh you’re sad, here’s a pill!” Complete insanity! This is where part of the problem lies; no one is digging deeper to discover “why.” Let’s just take the easy road and label the cause as a “chemical imbalance.” Well, NEWS FLASH: Despite popular belief this so-called “chemical imbalance” theory has never been proven and simply doesn’t exist. It is a bogus marketing ploy that the pharmaceutical companies conjured up and, unfortunately, many doctors and patients follow suit with. “There’s no biological imbalance. When people come to me and they say, ‘I have a biological imbalance,’ I say, ‘Show me your lab tests.’ There are no lab tests. So what’s the biochemical imbalance?” – Dr. Ron Leifer, New York psychiatrist.
…And then there are antidepressants! Oh, anti-depressants! What can I say about anti-depressants? Well, anti-depressants can take weeks to relieve symptoms (if they do at all) not to mention that they are downright dangerous, having the potential of catastrophic interactions. They can even lead to possible violent episodes and an increased risk of suicide.
In fact, according to Dr. Mercola, “Psychiatric drugs kill 42,000 people every year—that’s 12,000 MORE people than successfully commit suicide due to depression! And the death count continues to rise.” As if that isn’t bad enough, you can find ads about anti-depressants almost EVERYWHERE. They depict people dealing with normal daily stress and struggles and just because of this; they are falsely perceived as “depressed.” I don’t know about you, but if I can’t pay a bill or my car won’t start, there is a darn good chance that I’m going to be unhappy for a period of time. We are human; we are supposed to FEEL/HAVE emotions. It’s impossible and unnatural to be happy all the time. It’s even more unnatural to NUMB these feelings. We are led to believe that being sad or unhappy is ABNORMAL. It’s not. It’s HUMAN. These ads lead you to “believe” something is wrong with you when there may not be. It’s easy to be misled; drug companies WANT and NEED your business. Think about it!
Am I implying, all of the sudden, that depression is a myth? Of course, not! There are people who truly struggle with it. I will, however, imply that depression is NOT a disease and it can’t be fixed by a pill alone. Whoa! How dare I say that? It’s true! Depression is a disorder, meaning something isn’t quite right. It’s not as easy as being told that you have diabetes, take insulin. With diabetes, for example, the cause is high blood sugar, but with depression it can be literally, ANYTHING!
The nature and cause of this disorder may be different for every single person experiencing it. There is no one-size-fits-all treatment for depression. That’s why you can’t just take a happy pill and go about your business. The one common factor with depression is that there is an underlying, root cause of it. There is ALWAYS a root cause, people and you have to address it. It may come as a complete surprise, but your cause of depression or unhappiness just might be something rather simple and overlooked.
On the other hand, it may take some deep soul searching. It’s possible that you aren’t even thinking or focusing on the problem at all, only the cure. One thing is for certain; the mind is a powerful thing and believe it or not, YOU can take control! You aren’t alone and you need not struggle. Education yourself! Find the cause and work on correcting it, don’t just apply a Band-Aid!
Possible Cause: Nutritional Deficiencies
This is the easiest to point blame at and the first place to start. This is due to the simple fact that nutritional deficiencies are way more common than you may think and they can bring on a host of problems, including depression. Our food is so processed these days and so many people have poor eating and lifestyle habits, that this paves the way for complete physical and mental malfunction. In fact, almost every problem we encounter health wise is the direct result of poor nutrition and/or lifestyle. While we may be lacking in any number of nutrients at a given time, I am going to focus on the most common. The key players here are: Magnesium, Vitamin D, and B-Complex Vitamins. The truth is most people have, at least, one of these deficiencies.
Let’s start with magnesium; magnesium is by far the most important mineral in our bodies. According to Dr. Norman Shealy, “Magnesium is the most critical mineral required for electrical stability of every cell in the body. A magnesium deficiency may be responsible for more diseases than any other nutrient.” Magnesium plays a role in every biochemical reaction in the body making it a must have. The main causes of magnesium deficiency are; over consumption of calcium, alcoholism, and phytic acid (an anti-nutrient) in grains and nuts which bind to magnesium and other nutrients leading to malabsorption. Almost all plant foods, including grains, contain phytic acid and that isn’t an issue alone, but when your body is already mal or under nourished, it can quickly become a problem. We are told that the largest part of our diets should consist of grains and that wouldn’t be a problem if our grains weren’t so processed and refined. These days grains are little more than genetically modified franken-foods providing little to no nutritional value and actually robbing us of crucial nutrients. In 1905, before grains were widely refined, the rate of depression in America was about 1%. Is that just a coincidence? Not likely!
Moving on to vitamin D! Vitamin D is vital to immune and brain health and lacking in vitamin D is linked to obesity, cancer, autoimmune disease, and Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), all causes of depression! All the hype over sunscreen and skin cancer is robbing our bodies of this much needed nutrient leading to deficiency. Our bodies naturally make vitamin D from exposure to the sun! Sun exposure (without sunscreen) is a must, even if it’s 15-20 minutes a day. This is crucial because sunscreen prevents the body from making vitamin D.
Finally, B-complex vitamins! B-1 (thiamine), B-2 (riboflavin),B-3 (niacin), B-5 (pantothenic acid), B-6 (pyridoxine), B-7 (biotin), B-9 (folate), B-12 (cobalamin), PABA, inositol, and choline; they are needed for basically EVERY metabolic process in the body. This is another nutrient(s) that you are likely lacking. You may be lacking in some or all of these, but our body doesn’t store them so we must get them from our diet or by supplementing. Vegetarians and vegans are especially at risk for a B-12 deficiency since B-12 is only abundant in meat, fish, eggs, and milk. Other causes of B deficiencies are; stress, alcohol consumption, caffeine consumption, medications such as birth control and aspirin, smoking, and of course poor diet/illness.
Supplementing extra magnesium is completely safe assuming that you don’t have kidney disease and the recommended doses range from 350-800 mg of magnesium citrate, glycinate, or taurinate. These three are the most bioavailable and allow for the best absorption. Mild stomach discomfort and diarrhea can occur so it is wise to start with a lower dose to access your tolerance. Taking baths in Epsom Salt can also help magnesium levels, as well as make your skin glow and add body to your hair!
Have your vitamin D levels tested on a regular basis. Get out in the sunshine (no sunscreen) and soak up the rays! You can also supplement vitamin D in a liquid or pill form in doses of 1,000-5,000 IU a day. It is a fat soluble vitamin so it must be combined with a fat source (such as Omega 3’s) for best absorption.
With B vitamins you can supplement them as a complex or individually. Your doctor can also do blood tests to check your vitamin B levels. With B vitamins, it is rather hard to get too much, with the exception of B-3 (niacin), since they are water soluble. What your body can’t use or doesn’t need will simply be flushed out when you urinate.
Possible Cause: Being Inactive
Our bodies are meant to move; they crave physical activity. Without this activity our heart and lungs can’t fully function at optimal levels and our joints become stiff and our muscles become weak. Whether or not your lack of activity is a result of being overweight or the result of sitting at a desk all day, it’s important to get moving! Studies have shown that the longer a person sits in a given day the more likely they are to experience depressive symptoms.
For example, a study published by the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, found that women who sit for 7 hours or more a day had a 47% higher occurrence of depressive symptoms than those who sat for 4 hours of less a day. Women who didn’t exercise at all had a 99% higher risk of depressive symptoms than those who exercised on a regular basis. According to a study by the University of Georgia and published in TIME Magazine, “Exercise regulates serotonin and norepinephrine, two key neurotransmitters in your brain. And in just a few weeks, exercise “switches on” genes that increase your brain levels of galanin, a neurotransmitter that helps lessen your body’s stress response.”
Get moving! Find an activity that you enjoy; go hiking, play a sport, dance, walk, ANYTHING! Even small changes such as exercising during commercials when watching TV, can yield positive results! Just make sure you get a balance of activity; get your heart rate up, but also be sure to work those muscles, don’t forget to stretch too! Even if you’re thin, don’t think your exempt; you have to work out too! Make it fun, it doesn’t have to be a chore!
Possible Cause: Lack of Creative Expression
“Force yourself to smile and you’ll soon stop frowning. Force yourself to laugh and you’ll soon find something to laugh about. Wax enthusiastic and you’ll very soon feel so. A being causes his own feelings. The greatest joy there is in life is creating. Splurge on it!” ~L. Ron Hubbard
I grew up reading that; my father had this quote framed and hanging on the wall of his home office. I remember, anytime that I complained about how I couldn’t do something or if I was upset, my father made me read this. Reading it now, I can’t help but to smile. The message is clear; humans are creative beings; we express ourselves in many different ways. The common factor is that we NEED to do so and we are in charge out it. This is something often neglected and never fully achieved by many. Wait! Many actors, musicians and artists battle depression even though they create! That’s true, but it goes back to the root cause. Maybe their cause is different? Or maybe they aren’t truly doing what they enjoy? Perhaps creating became all about money? It’s hard to say for sure. This is all about finding YOUR root cause and correcting it. If you don’t have a creative outlet, then maybe you just found your cause of unhappiness!
Everyone has a creative side! If you are unaware of yours, then get out there and discover it! If you have been neglecting yours then reconnect with it. Paint, draw, dance, write something, blog, make clothes, make jewelry, pick up a camera and snap away. Learn an instrument, sing, re-decorate your house, or take up gardening! The possibilities are endless! Just do something! Splurge on it!
Possible Cause: Toxic Relationships
I’m not talking about your significant other automatically. Toxic relationship can be with your friends, family, coworkers, and so on…There is a popular quote by William Gibson that states, “Before you diagnose yourself with depression or low self-esteem, first make sure that you are not, in fact, just surrounded by assholes.” As funny as it is, there is a lot of truth in that. Humans are extremely sensitive to the energies of others, some more so than others. Regardless, some people are just emotional vampires that literally suck the life out of you whether that is their intention or not. Have you ever been around someone that you instantly feel the strong urge to get away from? Or perhaps, a person that (for reasons unknown) makes you feel anxious or angry just from their presence? Chances are your brain and body are trying to warn you about them. LISTEN! It may be tough to listen to this instinct because they may appear charming and nice, like someone you “should” like. However, trust your instincts or “gut feelings,” you get them for a reason. While some emotional vampires may appear sweet and innocent others may be rude, loud, needy, helpless, vain, or immature. They may complain without the intent of doing anything about it, bully you or others, and be overly opinionated. They may also lack empathy, or goals and ambition. They may or may not direct these negative behaviors at you, but if you can think of several examples of these types of people in your life, then just maybe it’s time for a serious change.
Take a good, hard look at the people around you; does any of the above sound familiar? If so, then take a close look at your relationship with them; what do these people mean to you? If they are people you aren’t close to or are just “Facebook friends” delete them from your life and do it now! If you are battling with your own emotions, you certainly don’t need their negative energies plaguing you and your already fragile psyche.
If they are close friends or family that you can’t live without, then tell them how you feel. Tell them what their behaviors are doing to you. It’s possible that they are battling their own emotions and you might just be able to help each other. Communication is a very powerful tool! Also, try surrounding yourself with more positive people who make you feel good. Try donating your time helping someone; helping others can do wonders for you mood as well!
Hopefully, this article got you thinking or even helped you. It’s not by any means a complete list; in fact, a person could write on the topic of unhappiness and depression endlessly. There are just too many possible causes and solutions to state them all in one source. The key is to really examine your life (no matter how painful), find the cause(s) and come up with a plan to correct it. You can’t just mask the symptoms no matter how tempting it may be to do so. In the end, anyone can offer their help, but it has to be you who decide to take charge and change the situation. Be well!
Sources and Further Readings:
Latest posts by Amie Moses (see all)
- Magic Mushrooms Can Actually Rewire and Change Your Brain - December 26, 2014
- What Is An Ambivert and How to Find Out If You Are One - November 8, 2014
- Sound Therapy: an Amazing Tool to Change Your State of Mind & Enhance Well-being - October 16, 2014
- Psychedelic Therapy: Scientifically Confirmed Ways Psychedelic Drugs Can Treat Mental Disorders - September 6, 2014
- Information and Your Brain: Does Technology Impact the Way Your Brain Values Information? - August 30, 2014