Over the last few years, depression has become much more widespread. We’ve all heard it before, “mental health issues don’t discriminate,” and that quote couldn’t be more accurate. Depression impacts people in the suburbs and on farms, in inner cities and refugee camps, in boardrooms and in classrooms. It is estimated that over 300 million people are living with depression, which is equivalent to nearly 4% of the world’s population. Rates of depression in the United States are even higher.
As someone who struggled with depression, I look back and realize that maybe I wasn’t as alone as I felt. People all around me had their own demons they faced, their own crippling thoughts and their own sense of darkness. But how? I was a freshman in college…an age that’s barely seen enough life to even have thoughts of what depression might be like. I was surrounded by other teenagers who were excited to be away from home, live on their own, build new friendships and relationships and start this next major chapter of life that would pave the way for their career.
It took years to make the decision to take control of my depression in ways that were productive, as opposed to ways that were only temporarily numbing. It was in my search for peace that I learned about depression on a deeper level, and that is what ignited my fire to strive for recovery.
The Causes of Depression
Reflecting back on my time in college, when my depression was in its early stages, I couldn’t pinpoint an exact event or moment that triggered the feelings I started having. I didn’t understand what I had done or what had happened to me that sparked the rollercoaster of emotions and aggressive behavior. As I finally sought help, I learned that this illness I was dealing with had a multitude of possible causes, and that many people were likely triggered by a combination of them.
- Death or loss – Following the loss of a loved one, many people experience symptoms of depression such as decreased interest or pleasure in activities, poor appetite, and trouble sleeping. While many of these symptoms typically subside over time, they have the potential to lead to depression if not managed.
- Life events – Research shows that continuing difficulties such as prolonged work stress, long-term isolation or loneliness, an abusive relationship or long-term unemployment are more likely to cause depression compared to a recent event or life stressor.
- Family history – Genetics can also contribute to one’s likelihood of developing depression. Having a close relative or parent with depression doesn’t mean that you’ll experience the same. Life circumstances and other personal factors still play a significant role.
- Substance abuse – Alcohol and drug problems can lead to depressive disorder. However, there are some prescription medicines that have also been linked to depression. Some of the drugs that may be associated with depression include beta-blockers, corticosteroids, benzodiazepines, statins, and anticonvulsants. It’s always important to review the medication you’ve been prescribed and speak to a physician if you’re feeling depressed.
- Poor diet – A poor diet can contribute to depression in different ways. Studies have shown that diets with an imbalanced ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 are associated with high rates of depression. Foods with high sugar content have also been linked to depression.
- Serious medical illness – Depression can sometimes be triggered by major illness or another medical condition.
- Personality – Some people may be at risk of depression because of their personality. This is the case for those who are negative and self-critical, are sensitive to personal criticism, are perfectionists or have low self-esteem.
Trying to determine the exact moment that my depression began and why, was like trying to find a needle in a haystack. I spent years attempting to figure it out on my own, thinking that if I could just tell when and why it started, I would be able to talk myself out of it. As I learned during the early stages of my treatment, one of the most important steps isn’t necessarily knowing why it began but realizing the impact it’s having and understanding the benefits of finding help.
The Natural Road to Recovery
Like many other people who face mental health issues, finding a temporary way to numb the emotional pain I had was through turning to drugs and alcohol. While I thought I was escaping the reality that I was facing, what I didn’t realize was that I was only contributing to the worsening of my depression over time. My years of seeing a therapist, and my stubborn beliefs about prescription drugs, sent me on an excited chase of finding natural ways to manage and cope with my depression. Here’s what I found that worked for me.
Cognitive Behavior Therapy
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a psychological treatment that recognizes that the way you think affects the way you act and feel. It works by encouraging you how to think rationally about whatever current situation you are unhappy with and helping you shift unhelpful or negative thoughts to a more problem-solving and positive approach. CBT is a treatment method that is recommended for people of all ages as it has been proven successful.
Many people who suffer from depression also experience anxiety. Relaxation training is often times used in CBT as part of a more comprehensive anxiety reduction treatment. It works by sending physical messages to the central nervous system, effectively calming and relaxing the brain. People that regularly engage in relaxation training exercises are usually likely to recover normal parasympathetic nervous system functioning.
Essential oils are concentrated plant extracts that serve many medical purposes. Of course, they cannot cure depression, but being used in conjunction to therapy and alongside other lifestyle changes, I have found them effective in alleviating symptoms of my depression. Some of the most popular essential oils for depression include lavender, bergamot, rose otto and jasmine.
Cannabidiol, most commonly referred to as CBD, is a compound found in the cannabis plant that is most commonly known for its anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties. While much of the research concerning CBD as a treatment method for depression is just beginning, there is some evidence that suggests that it could be used to manage symptoms of depression. It typically provides rapid relief to people suffering from depression, allowing them to relax almost immediately and improving their quality of sleep. Like any other supplement, it is recommended that you talk to your doctor if you are considering the use of CBD.
Omega- 3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are most commonly found in fish oil and certain marine algae. Recent studies of Omega-3s have shown that they may be helpful in relieving some forms of depression and other mood disorders. This is due to the belief that people who experience depression may not have enough EPA and DHA, which are two of the three main types of omega-3s. While research is continuing, there are ways to increase the amount of omega-3s you get in your diet by eating more fish or by using fish oil supplements, flaxseed oil or canola oil.
Mental health is a topic that has always carried some sort of a stigma, which is why so many people are afraid to speak out. I know from first-hand experience that depression has the ability to leave you in a crippling state of mind, and because of that, I would encourage anyone who can relate to take steps towards recovery as soon as possible. While there are many prescription medications available for those who need it, there are also natural alternatives that can help aid the symptoms of depression and their severity. Upon seeking a mental health professional, I recommend talking to them about some of the other ideas listed here to see if maybe they can work for you too!
Author Bio: Emerson Blake is a freelance writer from North Carolina. As both a fur-mom and a mommy, she enjoys spending time with family and exploring all that nature has to offer. As a lover of art and fitness, she can be found browsing many artist’s Instagram pages or at a local Pilates class.
The opinions and views expressed in this guest blog do not necessarily reflect those of www.rtor.org or its sponsor, Laurel House, Inc. The author and www.rtor.org have no affiliations with any products or services mentioned in this article or linked to herein.
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