Depression is the scourge of the 21st Century. The number of sufferers rises every year and the use of anti-depressant medication is skyrocketing.
Depression is the state of being dejected or dispirited. People who are depressed have a constant feeling of deep sadness. They may lose interest in activities that were once pleasurable and contemplate, attempt or commit suicide. They find it hard to be positive about the future. They may have physical symptoms too, like headaches and tiredness.
Everybody is potentially susceptible to depression. Depression is a disease like any other disease.
Types of depression
There are basically two types:
- ‘Endogenous depression’ is due to a chemical imbalance in the brain. It can be inherited, and is relatively rare. Medication is normally prescribed.
- The more common type, ‘reactive depression’ occurs when things aren’t going well and you feel powerless to cope. Most of us succumb to this kind of depression at one time or another. Many sufferers are prescribed medication, which can be effective in the short-term, but unless they take steps to deal with the root cause, they find that nothing has changed when they come off the drugs.
Doctors also describe depression by how serious it is:
- Mild depression has some impact on your daily life.
- Moderate depression has a significant impact on your daily life.
- Severe depression makes it almost impossible to cope with daily life. Some people with severe depression may also have psychotic symptoms, often described as involving a loss of contact with reality.
There are other types of depression, and some conditions where depression may be one of the symptoms. These include:
- Postnatal depression: Some women develop depression after having a baby.
- Bipolar disorder, also known as ‘manic depression’, where spells of depression alternate with excessively high mood (mania). The bouts of mania can include harmful behaviour such as gambling, going on spending sprees and having unsafe sex.
- Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a type of depression that has a seasonal pattern, usually pronounced in the winter.
Causes of depression
Depression can be a person’s reaction to life events such as an unhappy childhood, loss of a loved one, physical, emotional or sexual abuse, financial difficulties, job problems, a serious injury or illness, bullying, childbirth, menopause, loneliness, relationship problems and many other factors. Adolescents may be especially prone following social rejection.
It can also be caused by poor nutrition, neurological conditions and physiological problems such as chronic pain, diabetes, cancer and insomnia. It is often among the early symptoms of hypothyroidism (reduced activity of the thyroid gland). Certain medications are also known to cause depressed moods.
Depression is also associated with abusive use of both legal and illegal drugs, including alcohol.
There are many symptoms of depression. The following are common, but thankfully one person is unlikely to have all them.
Physical symptoms include:
- Disturbed sleep or excessive sleeping
- Tiredness/reduced energy
- Moving or speaking more slowly than usual
- Digestive problems
- Headaches/a feeling or pressure in the head
- Changes in appetite or weight (usually decreased, but sometimes increased)
- Unexplained aches and pains
- Changes to the menstrual cycle
- Lack of energy or lack of interest in sex
Mental and emotional symptoms include:
- Continuous low mood or sadness
- Having no motivation or interest in things
- Feeling anxious, hopeless and helpless
- Feeling alone
- Low self-esteem
- Feeling tearful
- Irritability and intolerance towards others
- Difficulty making decisions
- Suicidal thoughts or thoughts of harming yourself. (1)
Social symptoms include:
- Avoiding contact with others
- Under-performance at work
- Shame because others don’t understand
- Neglecting hobbies and interests
- Difficulties in the home and family life
Depression can come on gradually, and many people try to cope with their symptoms without realising they are ill. It can take a friend or family member to suggest something is wrong.
Drug-free remedies for depression
Doctors claim a high success rate for treatments such as medication and psychotherapy, although they have their drawbacks as we shall see.
For mild depression, doctors sometimes adopt a wait and see approach since people with mild depression often recover by themselves.
- Exercise is one of the main treatments effective for mild depression.
- Keep busy – distract your attention from the depressive thoughts.
- Do something you love every day.
Some natural remedies are known to help with depression. For instance, St John’s Wort is a herbal treatment available from health food shops and pharmacies. There’s some evidence that it may help mild to moderate depression, but it’s not recommended by doctors because the amount of active ingredients varies among individual brands and batches, so you can never be sure what sort of effect it will have on you.
Taking St John’s Wort with other medications can also cause serious problems, and nor should anyone who is pregnant, breastfeeding or on the contraceptive pill take it.
There are different types of talking therapy for depression, including:
- Cognitive Behavioural Therapy: CBT helps you understand your thoughts and behaviour and how they affect you. It focuses on changing the way you think, feel and behave in the present and teaches you how to overcome negative thoughts and challenge hopeless feelings. Sufferers normally have six to eight sessions with a CBT-trained counsellor. It is also offered in group sessions, on the telephone and online.
- Interpersonal therapy (IPT) focuses on your relationships with other people and on problems you may be having with them such as difficulties with communication or coping with bereavement. There’s some evidence that IPT can be as effective as antidepressants or CBT.
- Psychodynamic therapy involves a psychoanalytic therapist encouraging you to say whatever is going through your mind. The aim is to become aware of hidden meanings or patterns that may be contributing to your problems. It is often a lengthy and expensive process.
- Counselling is a form of therapy that helps you think about your problems and find new ways of dealing with them. It is offered to people going through a current crisis, such as relationship issues, bereavement, poor health or financial problems.
People with severe depression may be referred to a mental health team made up of psychologists, psychiatrists, specialist nurses and occupational therapists which provides intensive specialist talking treatments as well as medication.
Treatment for moderate or severe depression usually involves a combination of drugs, talking therapies such as CBT, and self-help. The UK National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NIHCE) 2009 guidelines recommend that antidepressants should not be routinely used for the initial treatment of mild depression because the risk-benefit ratio is poor.
Of course pills don’t cure depression, but they make it possible to function while the person returns to wellness. There are three main groups in common use:
- Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).They help increase the level of serotonin, a ‘feel good’ chemical, in the brain. SSRIs are relatively new. They have fewer side effects than older antidepressants and are claimed to work just as well. They can, however, cause nausea and headaches, a dry mouth and sexual dysfunction, and if taken by under-18s there may be an increased risk of self-harm and suicidal behaviour.
- Tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs) are used to treat moderate to severe depression. They raise the levels of serotonin and noradrenaline (another feel good chemical) in the brain. Their possible side effects include a dry mouth, blurred vision, constipation, problems passing urine, sweating, light-headedness and excessive drowsiness.
- SNRIs (serotonin-noradrenaline reuptake inhibitors) also change the levels of serotonin and noradrenaline in the brain. Studies have shown that an SNRI can be more effective than an SSRI, though they’re not routinely prescribed as they can lead to a rise in blood pressure.
Prescribing antidepressants can be a hit and miss affair. Not everybody with moderate or severe depression benefits from them. In addition an individual may respond to one antidepressant but not to another, and they may need to try several formulations before they find one that works for them.
Users may have unpleasant withdrawal symptoms if they stop taking them suddenly or miss a dose. These may include an upset stomach, dizziness, flu-like symptoms, anxiety and vivid dreams at night.
Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) may be offered if a person has severe depression and other treatments haven’t worked. This involves administering an electric shock to the brain through electrodes placed on the head. It is usually given twice a week for three to six weeks. The effects tend to wear off after a few months.
Some people get unpleasant side effects, including short-term headaches, memory problems, nausea and muscle aches.
Severe depressives usually lack the motivation, know-how and support to return to wellness unaided, but mild to moderate sufferers can benefit from self-help books and online materials. Self-help groups are also available in some areas, and some sufferers find talking things through can be helpful.
Organisations like the Samaritans and, in the UK, Depression Alliance can also help to find new ways of looking at things and taking practical steps to deal with the issues. There is much that sufferers can do to help themselves once they have taken responsibility for their emotional state. It also helps to remind yourself that most depression is temporary. ‘This too shall pass’.
Electronic Biofeedback Devices
Various electronic devices have been developed in the past half century which use well-proven technologies of low frequency, low intensity magnetic pulses to influence the body tissues. One example is TENS (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation) which uses electrical currents to stimulate the nerves for therapeutic purposes. Another is Scenar – ‘Self-Controlled Energy Neuro Adaptive Regulation,’ originally developed for the Russians to help with the health problems associated with space travel. While the use of TENS and Scenar has proved effective for pain relief in clinical studies, it is doubtful that they can help with depression.
The most advanced electronic biofeedback device on the market is the AcuPearl. AcuPearl has been developed by an international team of dedicated scientists whose expertise extends from the ancient healing arts including Traditional Chinese Medicine through to the latest research into the body’s connective tissue matrix communication network. AcuPearl comes in various configurations, one of which is the AcuPearl Chillout.
The AcuPearl Chillout
Chillout has been specifically developed to help with emotional anxiety and stress by helping calm the mind, relax the body, establish good sleep patterns and generally revitalise mind and body. It doesn’t claim to cure depression, rather support the body’s natural functions to lessen its effects. Its efficacy has been demonstrated with a range of states, including worry, nervousness, irritability, depression, headaches, shallow breathing, low libido, hyperactivity and lethargy, amongst others.
The AcuPearl Chillout offers three selectable therapeutic programs: Calm/Relax, Sleep and Revitalise.
The Calm/Relax setting works with acute and chronic stress and anxiety, offering a general calming and relaxing effect; the Revitalise program aims to help re-establish a sense of vitality when feeling depleted as a result of prolonged emotional stress and anxiety; and the Sleep setting offers the potential to help re-establish good sleep patterns for people experiencing sleep disorders due to emotional stress and anxiety. It can also be set to run through all three programs in sequence, which can be helpful when addressing chronic issues.
The therapeutic effect of AcuPearl can be enhanced by applying it to acupuncture points. The harmonious frequencies then flow through the body’s meridian network, harmonising the body’s energy system.
Scientific advance is an ever unfolding process, and although there’s still an awful lot to discover, the AcuPearl, based on the latest knowledge available, is leading the way in the field of bioenergetic therapies – and it comes without the drawbacks of harmful side effects, is non-additive and has no withdrawal symptoms.
Depression is a disease like any other disease. The more we learn about the mind and body, the more we realise that energy medicine is the future.
See also www.AcuPearl.co.uk
© David Lawrence Preston, 2015
Nothing in this article is intended as a substitute for professional medical advice. Always consult a doctor if you have any health concerns that may require diagnosis or treatment. Any statements made concerning products and services represent the opinion of the author alone and do not constitute an endorsement of any product or service.
(1) This is often misunderstood. Sufferers report that suicide is not seen as an escape, but as the logical solution to their situation. It ends the sufferer’s pain and, they imagine, relieves their close ones of an intolerable burden – themselves.