A Guide to Depression Treatment

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Depression treatment varies from person to person and case to case, and it will range from medication and therapy methods to nutrition and exercise. 

The type of treatment will depend upon the severity of the depression and the person who is undertaking the treatment plan as different people will respond to different methods. 

What causes depression?

Depression is a complicated condition and there are lots of different causes that effect people in different ways. 

The causes of depression could be genetic, life events and personal problems, substance abuse and medical conditions. Sexual or emotional abuse can leave people vulnerable to depression at a later date. The death of a loved one can cause depression in many people. Serious illness is also a common trigger for depression. 

The brain and chemicals in the body will alter when people are going through depression. The body releases a dangerous chemical called cortisol when it is under stress. The regular release of this chemical causes the amygdala, the part of the brain responsible for emotional responses, to enlarge. This can cause disruption to hormones, sleep disturbances and changes in activity levels. 

The brain has actually been found to suffer inflammation in people suffering with depression, but scientists haven’t found out whether the inflamed brain causes depression or if depressions causes the inflamed brain. 

What are the drugs that are used for depression? 

SSRIs (Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) are the drugs that are used for depression treatment. SSRIs include: 

  • Citalopram (Celexa)
  • Sertraline (Zolofit) 
  • Escitalopram (Zoloft) 
  • Fluoxetine (Prozac, Sarahfem, Symbyax) 
  • Fluvoxamine (Luvox)
  • Paroxetine (Paxil, Pexeva)
  • Viibryd (vilazodone hydrochloride)

What do SSRIs do? 

These drugs are known as anti-depressants and they increase the levels of serotonin in the brain. They basically block the reabsorption of serotonin into the neurons. They are used for the treatment of moderate to severe depression. They are often used in conjunction with other sorts of therapy like cognitive behavioral therapy or psychotherapy. 

What is serotonin? 

One of the causes of depression is thought to be the depletion of serotonin. Serotonin is a hormone that is often referred to as your happy hormone. It is a neurotransmitter that carries messages between the brain’s nerve cells – neurons. A large percentage of serotonin is actually produced in the gut. Serotonin will help to control our mood, happiness and feeling of well-being. But it also helps with sleep and digestion. 

What else can you do to help treat depression? 

Many doctors will prescribe anti-depressants alongside some sort of other therapy, dependent on the person they are working with and the severity of the depression. Cognitive behavioral therapy, interpersonal therapy and psychodynamic therapy are all approaches that can be used. 

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is used to help people change the way they think and behave – changing things from negative to positive to improve the way you feel. CBT is designed to help you deal with what is going on now rather than looking at issues from the past. CBT can be used for a wide range of anxiety and depression conditions and disorders like bipolar disorder, insomnia, substance abuse, phobias, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), post-traumatic stress disorder, psychosis, and schizophrenia.

Interpersonal therapy looks at improving personal relationships and social functioning to reduce distress. It can be used when someone has gone through a life changing event like a divorce or retirement, the death of a loved one or helping people to deal with disputes between family members, friends or work colleagues. 

Psychodynamic therapy is focused upon what has happened in the past and how that, sometimes unconsciously, impacts how they are feeling and how they behave in the present. Patients are encouraged to talk to their therapist openly about what they are thinking in a bid to find a pattern of behaviors and feelings.    

Does nutrition help to increase serotonin levels? 

Nutrition and exercise can play a huge part in the depression treatment. It is thought that 90 per cent of the body’s serotonin is actually produced in the digestive system. With this in mind, it would make sense that nutrition can be a huge support. If people eat high sugar or processed foods, then the integrity of the digestive tract is compromised. If the digestive tract is damaged and not performing as it should then it is unlikely to produce the levels of serotonin needed to keep people happy and healthy. Eating a balanced diet and avoiding high processed fat and sugary foods that will agitate the gut will help to keep the digestive system healthy and working optimally. 

Supplements that contain nutrients specially for gut like zinc, L-glutamine, curcumin and berberine, and probiotics will all help build a health digestive tract. 

The gut is made up of millions of bacteria. It is the good bacteria that keeps the digestive tract healthy and working properly. Certain foods feed the bacteria and keep disease causing bacteria at bay. These include fermented foods like kefir and sauerkraut, green vegetables, legumes like lentils and beans, raspberries, broccoli, and chickpeas. 

A diet rich in polyphenols will also help. These are plant compounds that can help with blood pressure, cholesterol and inflammation in the body, and they will help to increase to good bacteria in the gut. Foods high in polyphenols include raw cocoa, red wine, grape skins, green tea, almonds, onions, blueberries and broccoli. 

Does exercise help with depression? 

Exercising will cause the release of endorphins in the brain that help to improve mood. Exercise will also trigger the release of dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin in the brain that are all mood enhancers. Boosting serotonin levels will boost a person’s mood and overall sense of wellbeing. It will also help to improve people’s appetites and sleep cycles. There are other mental health benefits to exercise. By concentrating on a form of exercise, people will be distracted from other negative things going on in life. Setting exercise goals can help to boost confidence and sense of control and it is also a great way to get improve social interaction and make new friends. Having a combination of physical and social stimulation can have a huge impact on someone’s mental health.