Saturday, March 28, 2009

Natural Depression

Natural depression is a term I am often asked by people who come to see me for treatment. I personally do not believe that depression is a natural state to be in if you are a healthy human being living your life under the best conditions that meet all your essential needs. However, I am certain that depression will affect each one of us somehow, some way at some time in our lives, regardless of whether you are healthy or not. Therefore with regards to depression being a normal or unavoidable circumstance in a person's life, then yes, I would say that there is such a thing as natural depression.

Natural depression is a process that is commonly expected from someone who has just experienced some form of loss in his or her life:
  • the death of a loved one, be it a person or a beloved pet
  • losing a job
  • losing a partner due to a divorce or a break-up
  • losing a home
  • a failed business venture or investment
  • losing a friend through a misunderstanding or a fight
These are all valid reasons for someone to undergo natural depression.

Natural depression occurs during times of loss because our normal routine as well as the order we have set up in our lives are suddenly disrupted by a tragic event. That is why grieving is an expected behavior from a person who has just experienced loss because as human beings, we are aware of the emotional and mental pain this incurs in a person's life. As a matter of fact, society respects a person who is in mourning and allows them the time, space and privacy to overcome this trial in his or her life.

Natural depression associated with loss is considered a purging of one's soul and should be allowed to unfold on its own time so that the individual can surface from it with a valuable life lesson. Through sadness, one begins to reevaluate his or her life and develop new perspectives regarding what he or she considers valuable in life. Consequently, the person begins to have new priorities and proceeds to make changes in his or her life -- they could either be big or small changes -- but the process will certainly contribute to his or her personal growth.

As for depression that occurs for no apparent reason, then there are more factors that need to be considered, some may be biochemical while others could be physiological. In this case, depression is in no way considered "natural" however the symptom of being depressed is indeed a natural result of the underlying cause.

Possible causes of natural depression in these cases are:

  • Stress - lowers the immune system and can disrupt the brain's normal chemistry by lowering its ability to produce sufficient amounts of serotonin
  • Unbalanced and nutritionally deficient diet
  • Insomnia or sleep deprivation -- disrupts the production of melatonin as well as the body's circadian rhythms
  • No exercise or lack thereof -- people who exercise regularly are able to produce sufficient amounts of dopamine and endorphins, called "happy hormones" therefore making it highly unlikely for them to suffer from depression three times more than those who have no exercise routine at all
  • Alcohol and drug abuse -- alcohol is a natural brain depressant while illegal drugs can alter the brain's chemistry which is a major cause of depression
  • Prescription drugs -- sadly, medications that people use to contain a chronic disease is also responsible for causing depression. Examples of these are anti-inflammatory drugs, antihistamines, birth control pills, sedatives, etc.
  • Caffeine
  • Nicotine
  • Yeast infections
  • Parasitic infections
  • Hypothyroidism/ Hyperthyroidism
If you suffer from depression that is not caused by grief or loss, seek medical attention immediately to rule out any of the factors listed above. Of course, there are a lot more factors responsible for causing symptoms of natural depression but the ones I have included here are the most common.

In addition to seeking help from a medical practitioner, it would also be advisable to complement this with some form of natural therapy to help you deal with the painful and debilitating effects of depression, especially if the problem is a product of the unconscious mind. Sometimes it is only a matter of being conscious and aware when depression shows up in your life; why it is present in your life; how it affects you; and how you can arrest it from developing into something bigger that could cause further complications in your life.

I personally experienced a year-long depression myself when my marriage fell apart but I was still able to function normally through the help of natural therapies. Although I was only able to handle simple and routinized tasks, it was enough to slowly build my self-esteem, courage and determination until I was finally able to overcome the disease. However, I was also fortunate to have family and friends close by to give me all the love and support I needed to get through that difficult period in my life.

Natural depression is not a problem that should be a cause for alarm. Yes, it is not something to be taken lightly, however, find comfort in the knowledge that it is curable as well as containable. Do not think you are going crazy (even if it sometimes feels that way) and never think that it is the end of the world. There are solutions to everything and there are people who are fully qualified to help you through your depression. Also, never forget that you have family and friends who care and love you and will give you all their support if you ask for it. Often times, it is through the generosity, unconditional love and compassion of others that one becomes fully healed from natural depression.

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