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Seasonal Affective Disorder
Depression is a whole-body illness, it involves the body, nervous system, moods, thoughts and behavior.
It affects the way you eat and sleep, the way you feel about yourself, and the way you react to and think about
the people and things around you.
The American Psychiatric Association in its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV),
definition is based on the following criteria:
· Poor appetite accompanied by weight loss, or increased appetite accompanied by weight gain
· Insomnia or excessive sleep habits
· Physical hyperactivity or inactivity
· Loss of interest or pleasure in usual activities, or decrease in sexual drive
· Loss of energy; feelings of fatigue
· Feelings of worthlessness, self-reproach, or inappropriate guilt
· Diminished ability to think or concentrate
· Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide
The presence of five of these symptoms definitely indicates clinical depression: four is probably depressed.
Symptoms must be present as least one month to be called depression.
Obviously, there is a spectrum of clinical depression, ranging from mild feelings of depression to serious
consideration of suicide.
There are many types of depression, with variations in the number of symptoms, their severity and persistence:
Dysthymia: is also diagnosed according to DSM-IV criteria. The person must be depressed most of the time for at least
two years, and have at least three of the following symptoms:
· Low self-esteem or lack of confidence
· Pessimism, hopelessness, or despair
· Lack of interest in ordinary pleasures and activities
· Withdrawal from social activities
· Fatigue or lethargy
· Guilt or rumination about the past
· Irritability or excessive anger
· Lessened productivity
· Difficult concentration or making decisions
Manic phase: the mood is typically elation, inflated self-esteem, grandiose delusions, boasting, decreased need for sleep, psychomotor acceleration, weight loss due to increased activity and lack of attention to dietary habits.
Depressive episodes can alternate with hypomanias. A unipolar depressive suffers from depression alone, while the bipolar depressive suffers from either mania alone or mania alternating with depression.
Seasonal affective disorder: regularly occurring winter depression associated with summer hypomania.
Depression may be triggered by tension, stress, traumatic life events or the loss of a person, thing, status, self-esteem
or even a habit pattern, chemical imbalances in the brain (of serotonin, epinephrine, and norepinephrine), thyroid disorders, nutritional deficiencies, poor diet, food allergies, the consumption of sugar, hypoglycemia, lack of exercise,
drugs (prescription, illicit, alcohol, caffeine, nicotine, etc.) or any serious physical disorder.
Heredity is a significant factor in this disorder.
Of the various psychological theories of depression, the one that has the most merit is the learned model, which theorizes that depression is the result of habitual feelings of pessimism and hopelessness.
As part of the evaluation of this condition, the following tests will be helpful:
Complete blood test
Thyroid Function Test-T(3)-T(4), TSH
This is done so as to find out if there is an allergic reaction of the body or a mineral imbalance that can cause or
aggravate the mental symptoms or any other physical problems that may cause these mental symptoms.
Treatment Options for Depression:
Treatment for depression varies according to the cause of the condition and its severity.
Unipolar depression is one of the most treatable of the mental disorders.
The tools for treating depression can be divided into the somatic and the psychological.
Somatic treatments include:
Electro convulsive therapy (ECT)
Psychotherapies for depression include:
Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs): fluoxetine (Prozac), sertraline (Zoloft), paroxetine (Paxil),
fluvoxamine (Luvox) and citalopram (Celexa).
The group of antidepressants most frequently prescribed today are drugs that regulate the neurochemical serotonin.
These are commonly known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). They treat depression by "selectively"
inhibiting the reuptake of serotonin. That means that, unlike TCAs, they are unlikely to block the cholinergic receptors in
the brain. One of the main attraction of SSRIs is that they treat depression without the adverse effects of other
antidepressants, such as the dry mouth caused by TCAs or the dietary restrictions mandated by MAOIs
Side Effects of SSRIs:
Some people report having suicidal thoughts while taking Prozac.
Tricyclic Antidepressants: imipramine (Tofranil), amitriptyline (Elavil) and nortriptyline (Pamelor).
They work by raising the levels of serotonin and norepinephrine in the brain by slowing the rate of reuptake,
or reabsorption, by nerve cells. It may take several weeks to see the desired result.
Side Effects of TCAs
TCAs tend to have more unpleasant side effects than the newer antidepressants such as SSRIs.
and isocarboxazid (Marplan).
Monoamine oxidase is an enzyme that is found in many parts of the body. In the brain, monoamine oxidase destroys neurotransmitters, such as norepinephrine and serotonin. So MAO inhibitors, by limiting the activity of monoamine oxidase,
block the breakdown of those neurotransmitters.
They work more quickly than the tricyclics, but they have more severe side effects and require a change in diet.
MAOIs are generally prescribed :
For people who don't respond to the tricyclics and SSRIs.
For cases of atypical depression.
Because of their stimulating rather than sedating effect, MAOIs may be preferable to TCAs for treating dysthymia,
a chronic, low-level depression.
Side Effects of MAOIs
after taking the medication, may include a dangerous rise in blood pressure, as well as headache, nausea, vomiting,
rapid heartbeat, possible confusion, psychotic symptoms, seizures, stroke and coma.
The foods that interact with MAOIs include aged cheeses; smoked, pickled, fermented and otherwise processed meats,
fish and soy products; Chianti and other red wines; fava beans and ripe figs; and foods containing monosodium glutamate (MSG). These foods all contain large amounts of the amino acid tyramine, which, when it interacts with MAOIs,
dramatically raises blood pressure.
Depressive symptoms are exacerbated by nutritional deficiencies, sush as:
Depression has been associated with a high intake of caffeine.
Several studies have looked at caffeine intake and depression. In a study of healthy college students, moderate and
high coffee drinkers scored higher on a depression scale than did low users. Other studies have shown that depressed
patients tend to consume fairly high amounts of caffeine (more than 700 mg per day). In addition, the intake of caffeine
has been linked with the degree of mental illness in psychiatric patients: the higher the intake, the more severe the depression.
Excess intake of refined sugar via sweet foods and/or from junk food can aggravate depression.
The combination of caffeine and refined sugar is even worse for depression than either substance consumed alone.
Several studies have found an association between this combination and depression.
If you are suffering from depression, stay clear of caffeine, sugar, alcohol, and dairy products.
Eat fresh green vegetables, some fresh fruits, whole cereals and beans well cooked, unroasted seeds, seed sprouts,
and soy protein, to supply whole protein to the body. Avoid any processed food, artificial colors, stimulant food,
canned foods, smoking, dairy products, meats, eggs, and fish.
Avoid processed food that contains artificial coloring and preservatives.
Special attention should be paid to avoid foods that may cause allergic reaction, tiredness, heaviness, or any other
Include tofu, beans and seafood in the diet for adequate protein.
Seek out seafood. Eating tuna, salmon, and other fish loaded with omega-3's, a type of polyunsaturated fat,
may help bolster your mood. The scientists postulate that low levels of omega-3's in your nervous system may
increase your vulnerability to depression. So regular consumption of fish once or twice a week may prevent the depression.
Lobster, crab, shrimp, and other shellfish also contain some omega-3's.
Avoid black tea, and alcohol. Use herbs in cooking, fresh in salads, and as spices. Eat more wheat germ, which is
an energizer. Pears, apples, and nuts contain bromine which assists the nervous system in functioning
Many commonly prescribed antidepressants work by keeping the neurotransmitter serotonin circulating in the brain.
Herbs such as Siberian ginseng, licorice and Saint-John's-wort also increase the availability of serotonin in the brain.
In clinical studies, Siberian ginseng has repeatedly proved helpful for people who are depressed or have other serious
emotional problems. According to a 1980 study, licorice is more effective than one of the commonly prescribed MAO
inhibitors. Other herbs that may help depression are basil, thyme, lemon balm, lavender, spearmint, peppermint,
rose petals, gingko, marjoram, lemon verbena, and ginseng.
Homeopathic remedies can be useful in alleviating the blues. These remedies are prescribed based on the similarity of
their characteristics to the symptoms experienced. Treatment will be constitutional.
Acupuncture can be useful in the treatment of depression. Acupuncture balances the flow of chi and blood throughout
your body. It can help resolve the underlying energetic imbalance contributing to your depression. Stimulating acupuncture
points has been shown to release endorphins and enkephalins. Hence, acupuncture treatments can have a calming,
mood-elevating effect. If you are suffering physical symptoms in conjunction with your depression, such as headache,
stomachache, or backache, acupuncture can help to alleviate them.
The following techniques are good for getting relief from depression. Try any two of these for a quick relief.
Aerobic Exercise: Twenty to thirty minutes of bicycling, swimming, dancing, running, or brisk walking can relieve
most common, mild depressions. It has been proven that depressed people who had never exercised improved
considerably when starting an intensive exercise program which included long distance walking and jogging.
They found a new zest for life, became more stress-tolerant, and improved their self-image.
Take a Stimulating Shower: Start showering with warm water, gradually making it hotter. Then decrease the
temperature as low as you can stand it. Cold water stimulates the nerves close to the surface of the skin and is
Do not do this if you have a serious illness or are pregnant, premenstrual, or menstruating.
Deep Breathing Exercises: In just ten minutes, you can oxygenate your body and relieve your depression by
practicing deep breathing and relaxation.
Given enough time and patience, it is usually possible to customize the treatment, and achieve a good outcome.
Please be advised: This information is provided for personal interest.
As every individual case is different, it is essential that a certified health professional be consulted before initiating any treatment regime.
Should you wish to discuss the specifics of your case you can contact Dr. Comas (416) 515-8493
or e-mail: Dr-Comas@NaturalMedicineSolutions.com