With more than 7 % of Americans suffering from major depressive disorder (MDD) today, this disorder is one of the main causes of disability among people aged 15 to 44. Not only it is quite prevalent but it is also mean, literary incapacitating people suffering from it and making them incapable of basic life activities such as hanging out with friends, smiling, having sex, or even getting up from the bed. Although depression will in some cases disappear on its own after some time, when it gets you and becomes nasty, there is no time to waste. You need to act immediately.
When you decide to treat depression, there are basically two ways you can go. You can either decide to tackle it with medications, or you can decide to remain medicine-free and go a more natural way, trying to treat it with some natural supplements, herbs, vitamins, or by taking up some psychotherapy.
Of course, you can choose to take both approaches simultaneously, which is probably the most efficient approach. In this article, I’ll try to sketch both approaches and give you a review of commonly used supplements and techniques.
I’ll take medications
If you decide to take medications for depression you will probably be given some sort of tricyclic antidepressants. They impede re-uptake of noradrenaline and serotonin in the presynaptic axonal end after their exocytosis in the synoptical cleft, which means that they increase the level of noradrenaline and serotonin in the brain.
Another group of medicine that goes under the name of monoamine oxidase inhibitors works in a similar way. Actually, more or less all antidepressants have the same mechanism: in some way they increase the concentrations of serotonin and/or noradrenaline in the brain which relieves depression symptoms. There are two downsides of these medicines: they can reduce symptoms but they can’t cure you of depression and, of course, they can have serious side effects.
I don’t want medicine
This is an essential fatty acid which means that your body can not synthesize it on its own so you have to take it through your nutrition. Don’t worry, it’s not that hard – just try to eat more fish as it is the main source of Omega 3. Also, try to increase your amino acid intake by eating more milk, eggs, cheese, or meat.
Since with depression, it’s all about serotonin, you will want to increase the levels of it in your brain. The best way to do it is through exercise and hanging in the daylight. Sounds trivial but it’s truth. It would be best if you could combine the two for the maximum of the serotonin boost. So when it’s sunny out there go out and run, don’t just sit at home. There’s also a trick if you want to achieve a short-term intensive serotonin blast.
Contrary to most advice that will tell you to stabilize and regulate your sleeping pattern, I am telling you: skip a night or two of sleep and you’ll feel better. I’m dead serious about this. There’s scientific evidence that shows that reducing sleep can boost your mood and the reason is that our happy-hormone, serotonin, which is involved in the regulation of sleep and wakefulness is at its maximum activity maximum while we are awake and minimum while we sleep.
So, even though keeping a regular stable sleeping/waking schedule generally reduces stress which is quite beneficial in case of depression, if you’re feeling down don’t be afraid to stay awake for a night. You might end up pretty tired, but at least you’ll feel happier.
Psychotherapies are my choice
There’s one more path you can take if you decide to adopt a natural non-medicine approach to depression treatment, and that is psychotherapy. I’ll introduce you to three psychotherapies that proved to be most useful in treating depression, and after that, I’ll give you some tips on how to choose among them the proper one for you.
A modern variant of psychoanalysis called dynamic psychotherapy proved to be effective in tackling depression. Instead of focusing on the past as psychoanalysis does, it works by focusing on the present, specifically on the patient’s social interactions. By helping a depressed individual achieve better social interactions, it effectively relieves depression symptoms as healthy social relationships are one of the most protective factors against depression.
The second good psychotherapy for depression is cognitive therapy. The cognitivist think that depression is caused by irrational and unrealistic thinking and it is the goal of cognitive therapy to fix these thought patterns. Patients must learn that negative thoughts about themselves impede them from getting a more realistic picture of the world around them and their real possibilities. Cognitive therapy proved to be more successful in treating depression than some medication (e.g. tricyclic antidepressants).
Finally, the third successful psychotherapy is behavioral therapy. One of the main symptoms of depression are problems in social relationships. The causal relationship between depression and bad social relationships probably goes both ways: if your social life sucks, you are at risk of depression, but also if you happen to have depression it will affect your social life in quite a negative way.
The goal of behavioral therapy is to teach patients how to achieve more positive social interactions and, thus, better social relationships. And if you manage to improve your social life, your depression could soon go away.
Determining the best therapy is quite a challenge but the key is to determine your biggest weakness. If you can estimate what is the most critical part of your functioning, is it your thoughts, relationships, or perhaps emotions, you are on a good way to finding the most appropriate treatment for yourself. My advice is when fighting a serious and hard disorder such as depression, fight it on multiple battlefields.
That means, use as many approaches you can, it will increase your chances of success.