Depression is a common and serious medical condition that affects how people feel and act. The illness can lead to emotional as well as physical problems and can cause issues in all aspects of a person's life.
Depression is the most common type of mental illness. The American Psychiatric Association estimate that depression affects around 1 in 15 adults every year and that 1 in 6 people will experience depression at some point during their life.
While depression can affect anyone, it usually occurs for the first time when a person is in their teens or early 20s. Women are more likely than men to have depression.
A 2012 study conducted with veterinary students found stress had a negative impact on mental health, life satisfaction, and general health.
A variety of factors, including work, education, family life, or relationships, can cause stress. It is important to try managing and addressing these stressful situations when they arise.
Exercise offers a range of health benefits including helping prevent depression. Both high-intensity and low-intensity exercise is beneficial in this respect.
High-intensity exercise releases the feel-good chemicals, known as endorphins, into the body.
Low-intensity exercise sustained over an extended period helps release proteins called neurotrophic factors, which improve brain function and make a person who is exercising feel better.
Many people who are depressed have low motivation for exercise, so it is a good idea to start with 5 minutes of walking or doing an enjoyable activity and gradually increase the length of time over the coming days, weeks, and months.
The brain needs the right mix of nutrients to function properly.
The British Dietetic Association (BDA) outlines some dietary changes people with depression can make that may help prevent relapses:
- eating unsaturated fats by cooking with olive or grapeseed oil and adding nuts and seeds to meals
- avoiding trans fats found in processed meat, ready meals, cookies, and cakes
- eating more whole grains, fruits, and vegetables
- eating protein with tryptophan, found in fish, poultry, eggs, and spinach
- eating oily fish containing omega-3 oils or taking omega-3 supplements at least twice a week
- drinking 6 to 8 glasses of water a day
- avoiding caffeinated drinks, such as coffee and soda
Not getting enough sleep has a significant impact on people psychologically and physically, and insomnia is associated with depression.
Depression can also cause insomnia, but there are techniques people can try in order to get more sleep naturally. These include:
- creating a bedtime routine
- avoiding using electronic equipment before going to bed
- spending 30 minutes doing a relaxation exercise or reading a book before trying to go to sleep.
- going to a quiet spot and doing more relaxation exercises if still struggling to sleep
- practicing breathing exercises by breathing in slowly through the nose and out through the mouth, following the steady rise and fall of the abdomen
There is a close link between depression, as well as anxiety disorders, and alcohol or other substance-use disorders.
The Anxiety and Depression Association of America estimates that around 20 percent of people who have depression also have an alcohol or drug disorder.
For most people, moderate alcohol consumption is not a problem, but for people with depression, alcohol or drug use can make their symptoms worse.
It can be a vicious cycle, but while many people take medication, there are natural techniques available that can help deal with both disorders at the same time.
For example, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which looks at ways to change thinking patterns, is often useful. Many people see benefits after 12 to 16 weeks of therapy.
CBT is one effective way in which talking is used to help people with depression and, in many cases, it has been found to be more effective than medication.
However, CBT is not the only type of talking therapy. A doctor or psychiatrist can help identify what kind of therapy may be most beneficial to an individual diagnosed with depression.
Often people find it easier talking to a trained stranger, such as a counselor or therapist, than they do talking to family and friends.
It can help the person talk about their symptoms differently and identify ways to deal with them.
Talking therapy is often in a one-on-one situation, but there are also support groups that other people find effective.
As much as possible, a person should avoid triggers associated with the onset of their depression symptoms.
This, of course, is not always simple, and in some cases, it can be impossible. For example, if a particular person or group of people are a trigger, the individual will have to weigh the advantages and disadvantages of avoiding them.
A job could be a trigger, but leaving a job is not always possible. Any life-changing decisions, such as these, need to be thoroughly thought out.
However, the most important thing is that the individual identifies what triggers their depression and works toward a way of managing and avoiding them as much as possible.