Depression is a common mental health issue, affecting 16.2 million adults in the U.S. - that is 6.7 percent of all Americans over the age of eighteen. Depression can have many causes, such as genetics, hormones, brain chemistry, physical health, and major life changes.
Last Update: April 2nd, 2020 Author: Rachel Green and Wendy Rhodes
With clinical depression being so prevalent among Americans, many are searching for natural methods to offer relief from depression. While medication is often necessary for the effective management of depression, some drugs can be habit-forming or have negative side effects. Also, natural methods can also be paired with medication or therapy to enhance the treatment of depression.
Let’s look at how to recognize depression and the many forms it takes.
Depression is different for everyone, but the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, (DSM-5) defines major depression as an episode lasting at least two weeks in which a person experiences depressed feelings, loss of interest in activities, and a minimum of five other symptoms from this list:
- Lack of energy or fatigue
- Decreased appetite or weight loss
- Increased appetite or weight gain
- Difficulty concentrating
- Unusually slow movements
- Sleeping too much
- Suicidal thoughts or actions
Clinical depression requires a medical diagnosis, but not everyone suffering from depression will get the proper treatment. While depression is very treatable, with an abundance of therapies and medications available, it is important to know when it is time to seek professional health.
While there is still a stigma surrounding depression and other mental health issues, awareness of these issues has helped decrease the stigma. It is important to talk to a doctor when experiencing multiple symptoms of depression, especially symptoms regarding suicidal thoughts.
Depression is an extremely complex disease. There is no exact answer to what causes it, but it can occure for a variety of reasons.
There are a number of factors that may incrase the chance of depression:
- Trauma, early childhood trauma
- Genetics (Family history)
- Life circumstances
- Certain medications
- Death or loss
- Serious illnesses
- Drug and alcohol abuse
Other medical conditions
Some depressive episodes have physiological or environmental causes.
Postpartum Depression affects women who have given birth within the past twelve months. It stems from hormonal changes as well as adjusting to the major life changes that come with parenthood. It is common for new mothers to experience stress, sleep deprivation and loneliness in the weeks and months following delivery. These issues can often cause a period of depression with a wide range in levels of severity. Depression is also common during the menopausal period of women.
Seasonal Affective Disorder is depression that typically affects individuals in the fall and winter months, then subsides in the spring and summer.
Major depressive disorder is the most severe form of depression. The symptoms are persistent and don’t go away on their own.
Persistent depressive disorder or PDD is a milder, but chronic form of depression.
Studies have indicated that people suffering from depression have less serotonin in the fall and winter due to overactive serotonin transmitters in the winter and may also produce less vitamin D in the winter.
Depression, or depressive disorder, can be a devastating illness but it often responds well to treatment.
The most important thing is to learn as much as you can about your depression. It is crucial to determine whether the symptoms are due to an underlying medical condition or not, and this assessment must be done by medical professionals. If it is, then the medical condition must be treated first and foremost. Another factor is the severity of the depression. It can vary from general sadness to suicidal thoughts. It may take time to find the right treatment, including some trial and error. Even with the right treatment, it takes real commitment and effort to see it through.
Get some social support, cultivate social connections and reach out to family and friends.
After an assessment rules out medical or other severe causes, there are a number of treatments available today for most patients. These treatments include but not exclusive to:
- Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy
- Interpersonal Therapy
Brain Stimulation Therapies
- Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT)
- Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS)
- Light Therapy
Lifestyle changes and Self-help
- Social support
- Nutrition, vitamins (B and D) and hebal supplements
- Good sleep
- Stress reduction
- Challenging negative thoughs
- Relaxation techniques
Other alternative approaches
Weighted Blankets for Treating Depression
Regardless of what type of depression plagues someone, the symptoms have detrimental effects on individuals, robbing them of their quality of life.
One natural tool to help manage the disease and its oppressive symptoms is a weighted blanket. Weighted blankets can be a great way to manage and curb depression with Deep Touch Pressure (DTP). Weighted blankets are popular resources for insomnia and a host of other physical, mental, and emotional problems - including depression.
Understanding how the body responds to touch is essential to understanding how DTP can aid in treating depression. Touch has profound effects. Giving someone a hug or a firm pat on the back is universally recognized as a comforting gesture.
Sometimes when people are upset or sad, they will fold their arms and essentially hug themselves. That is because of Deep Touch Pressure. Firm, yet gentle touch can lower blood pressure, lower heart rate, reduce levels of the stress hormone cortisol, and produce the happy hormone serotonin. Deep touch pressure promotes an overall feeling of well-being, security, and comfort - all of which desperately need to be felt by those suffering from depression. There is a number of other ways to manage depression, like drugs, breaking out of the daily routine, exercise and so on. To find the best way to combat depression, reach out to a medical professional, a life coach, a therapist, or a psychiatrist.
More than half of those suffering from depression also experience anxiety. Nervousness, trouble focusing, irritability, and mood swings are some of the common symptoms of depression with anxiety. Weighted blankets can help ease the symptoms of anxiety through the reassuring components of DTP. Gentle, weighted pressure on the skin provides tactile sensory input to the nervous system, which results in a sense of calm and safety. Anxiety and depression can cause extreme nervousness and paranoia. Weighted blankets can help with soothe the nervous system and calm the mind, providing relief from some anxiety symptoms.
According to research, people who sleep less than six hours per night are more likely to experience major depressive episodes (source). Conversely, those suffering from depression are more likely to experience insomnia or trouble sleeping. Whether insomnia causes depression, or depression is what causes trouble sleeping, the fact remains that the two problems are closely related. Weighted blankets can help manage depression and may be able to ease or even cure insomnia. Since those with insomnia are ten times more likely to become depressed, and healthy sleep habits are crucial to effectively treating depression, it is important to use whatever natural tools available to improve both sleep and depressed moods.
Depression is a debilitating mental health condition that takes on many forms. A variety of drugs and therapies are available to treat depression. There are even online depression treatment services out there where one could meet a doctor online and discuss treatment options. Natural methods, such as Deep Touch Pressure and weighted blankets are also great ways to ease out of depression. Healthy sleep cycles are essential to good mental health. Weighted blankets can boost serotonin levels, as well as manage insomnia. Consider using a weighted blanket to help manage depression along with a treatment plan prescribed by a doctor.