Depression. As a word that is uttered typically always in hushed voices, and is confined to the privacy of one’s own home—typically nowhere public—it has forced its way into the hearts and minds of more than 350 million people worldwide (World Health Organization
) with a roaring presence. When you think of depression, what image comes to mind? If you’re like most people, it’s probably a picture of an obviously-distraught person with tears streaming down his or her face with an expression of anguish. While this perception is accurate in many cases, the image of depression extends above and well beyond it. A depressed person can be that super-friendly cashier at the grocery store who always has a grin on his face, or the woman who seems super confident and self-assured. Depression
can hide behind the eyes of that person whose number one priority in life is to get a smile or a laugh out of everyone he meets. The truth is that there is not just one specific type of person that gets depression. There are many possible causes for depression, ranging from chemical imbalances to genetic predispositions to medical conditions to traumatic life events and more. With that being said, however, there is also an abundance of hope for treating and overcoming depression.
Contrary to many popular beliefs, depression is not simply feeling sad or down in the dumps every once in a while. Depression is the ongoing feeling of sadness, hopelessness and emptiness that occurs on a near-daily basis. Mental illnesses, including depression, should never be taken lightly, and it's important to talk to a professional immediately if you start noticing something changing in your mood, personality and perception of life. Depression often escalates in severity if not treated right away, sometimes leading to suicide. Visiting your doctor, therapist, psychologist or other professional should be number one on your priority list. Once you receive a proper diagnosis and decide on a course of treatment, you can start considering whether you'd like to incorporate some natural options into your lifestyle. However, it's very important to realize that the most effective forms of treatment for depression are medications, psychotherapy and electroconvulsive therapy, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness
. Natural remedies should only be considered if you have low-level depression and are in regular communication with your doctor about what you're taking. For treating symptoms of low-level depression, there are several options to try.
St. John's Wort
As the most-studied herb of all time, St. John's Wort
has been found to have many benefits, including some for depression. Research suggests that St. John's Wort can help to gently balance neurotransmitters, according to Pina LoGiudice ND, LAc and Peter Bongiorno ND, LAc
, directors of Inner Source Health. St. John's Wort can negatively interact with many other medications, so talk to your doctor first if you're thinking about taking this supplement.
The supplement 5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) has been shown to have positive effects for improving conditions like migraine headaches
, but its primary use is for treating depression, says the NYU Langone Medical Center
. The way it works is by raising serotonin levels in the brain, which helps to regulate and improve your mood and behavior. The University of Maryland Medical Center asserts
that 5-HTP may work just as well as certain antidepressant medications when used to treat depression in people that is low-level to moderate, as demonstrated through several small studies. 5-HTP
may also be particularly helpful to those dealing with comorbid depression and anxiety. Though 5-HTP naturally occurs in the body and is typically safe for using short-term, you should not use it if you're already on antidepressants or have severe
depression or bipolar disorder. Always check with your doctor first before using.
S-adenosylmethionine (SAMe) is a chemical based on the amino acid methionine, a natural occurrence in your body, and it can help increase the neurotransmitters serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine, according to Richard P. Brown, M.D.
, associate professor of clinical psychiatry at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons. SAMe
is known to work very quickly in lifting a depressed mood, and studies show that it may also be useful for treating those with Parkinson's disease or painful symptoms of aging, says Pina LoGiudice ND, LAc and Peter Bongiorno ND, LAc
. You should not take this supplement if you are on antidepressant medications, as it can interact with them along with other medications and supplements. Consult your doctor first.
Along with natural supplements, medications, therapy, diet and exercise can all contribute to improving your depression. One of the most important things to realize when you are in the midst of depression is that it will end, and you will recover. When you realize that you are struggling, it is important to reach out for help. Depression is not something to be ashamed of; it's not a weakness, and it's not your fault. It's simply a sign of your humanity, of your being alive. Talking about your thoughts and emotions can be very therapeutic and help counteract the feeling of being swallowed whole by depressive symptoms. Releasing your feelings by sharing them with others is something that can help you to realize that you are not the only one struggling. Talking about depression with others is something that can help us to relate and empathize with each other, leading to a truthful, destigmatized perception of this mental illness—one that possesses so many hopeful options for complete recovery.
If at any point your depression becomes too overwhelming or you feel suicidal, please call 911, a friend or family member, or this helpline for immediate advice and assistance: 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Always consult with your doctor before trying supplements for depression.
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