Depression is an enigma. I have found that it can look irritable and impatient, or it can appear as downright sadness. For some people, depression is tied closely to anxiety, and for others it is a lack of motivation that keeps them glued to the couch. It can affect adults and children, men and women, and people from all occupations and life situations.
According to the World Health Organization, an estimated 300 million people around the globe have depression, affecting almost twice as many women as men. Depression affects people in different ways. While there are a number of signs and symptoms of depression, not every person will have them all. Symptoms may vary from person to person, but if you struggle with depression, you may experience:
- Feelings of sadness, anxiety, helplessness, guilt, hopelessness, or emptiness
- Impatience or irritability
- Lack of energy
- Little interest in everyday activities
- Feeling distracted or difficulty concentrating
- Sleep changes, such as problems getting to sleep, early waking, or sleeping more than usual.
- A change in appetite or food cravings, especially for sweets or carbohydrates
There is no simple explanation or single underlying cause of depression. Some suggested sources of depression include a family history, a brain chemistry imbalance, hormonal fluctuations, and stressful life situations. In addition, seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a kind of depression linked to seasonal changes, and is especially prevalent during the winter months in people who live in cold or cloudy climates. Postpartum depression is experienced by some women after giving birth, which can be aggravated by the exhaustion and stress of caring for a new infant.
Natural Treatments for Depression
While antidepressant medications are an option for patients struggling with depression, I have worked with patients who have experienced unwanted side effects or chose not to take them long term. For that reason, some people look for natural ways to treat their depression. At BodaHealth, we offer a number of gentle and natural healing approaches to help our patients. They include:
Acupuncture - I have worked with many patients with depression, and have found that they respond to acupuncture very well. The research, while limited, suggests that acupuncture is effective in treating depression. One of the key effects of acupuncture is that is increases the circulation of feel-good neurotransmitters in your brain, called endorphins, which can help elevate mood and relieve stress. This change in brain chemistry after acupuncture is an important effect in helping patients with depression.
Chinese Medicine - Chinese herbal medicine and food therapy can be helpful in patients with depression. There are a number of herbal formulas that can treat this condition. In addition, food therapy is a way to tailor your diet to regulate your appetite, help with digestive symptoms, and decrease food cravings.
I believe that listening also plays a crucial role in treating patients with depression. Listening to you helps me understand not only your diagnosis, but also how best to help you. In addition, being heard is therapeutic. It creates a connection and allows you to talk about your feelings in a non-judgmental way. Feeling supported and understood is an important part of the healing process and an important component in how all of us at BodaHealth help patients struggling with depression.
Emily Lewis is a registered acupuncturist and practitioner of traditional Chinese medicine at BodaHealth in Vancouver, British Columbia.