What is Depression?

Feeling sad or depressed is a normal emotion that most experience particularly after a loss such losing a job or death of a loved one. Clinical depression, however, is a feeling of sadness or hopelessness that lasts more than two weeks and hinders daily life.  Approximately 15 million Americans deal with clinical depression each year. To be diagnosed with clinical depression, a person must typically experience at least five of the following symptoms: lasting feelings of depression, especially in the morning, daily low energy or fatigue, daily feelings of guilt or worthlessness, poor concentration, daily insomnia or hypersomnia (excess sleeping), reduced interest or pleasure in most activities, thoughts of suicide or death, a feeling of restlessness, and significant weight gain or loss.

What Causes Depression?

Clinical depression is a complex disorder influenced by a variety of factors.  Emotional or physical abuse can lead to depression later in life.  Some medications can lead to depression including Accutane (used to treat acne) and interferon-alpha (an antiviral drug). Disputes between family and friends or death or loss of a loved one can cause depression. Genetics may also play a role as a family history of depression places one at higher risk of developing depression. Major life events, even positive ones, like getting a new job, can cause depression. Those suffering from lasting or serious illnesses may suffer from depression. About 30% of substance abusers have clinical depression.

What is the Treatment for Depression?

In traditional medicine, depression is most often treated with antidepressant medication. Many medications that are given for depression are very difficult, if not virtually impossible, to wean off of. While there is certainly a time and place for antidepressants, and as primary care physicians, we can prescribe these medications. It is important to discover any underlying nutrient deficiencies, endocrine imbalances, methylation dysfunction, food sensitivities, or heavy metal toxicities that could be contributing to or causing the depression. Additionally, counseling and stress management tools are helpful in dealing with depression.