Flexing Your Mental Muscle

When a person uses the term “health” most people conjure up images related to the physical aspects of health—following a balanced diet, regularly exercising, not drinking to excess, and the like.

While having a healthy body is crucial to longevity and well-being, people sometimes neglect an entirely separate but equally important component of life—mental health.

Although increased focus has been placed on the subject matter in recent years, some still view mental illness with a stigmatized lens. 

To give light on the worldwide mental health issues here are some statistics to be aware of (1,5):

  • During 2013 to 2016, 8.1% of Americans over the age of 20 experienced depression in a given 2-week period
  • Women were about twice as likely (10.4%) as men (5.5%) to experience depression
  • Last year, 800,000 people died worldwide as a result of suicide
  • In the US suicide was the 2nd leading cause of death in individuals between the ages of 10 and 34 (10th overall amongst all ages)
  • There were more than twice as many suicides in the US (47,173) than homicides (19,510)

Due to the prevalence of mental health concerns, an increased focus has been placed on the subject matter in recent years. 

Depression can hit anyone at anytime. It doesn’t favor the wealthy or those in poverty. Whether you are young, old, male or female depression knows no bounds. 

Hi I’m Sean Torbati and I’m here to talk about a sensitive but extremely necessary topic—depression. As a lifetime advocate of health and wellness I have become increasingly aware of the importance of our mental health. While the topic may be difficult for some, I want to lead the forefront to help destigmatize the subject. 

Mental health, like physical health is something that must be taken care of and treated if necessary. In fact, some people would even say mental health is more important than physical health. It’s currently estimated that about 7.1% of the US population suffers from depression (2).

Although depression and related illnesses can dramatically impact the course of one’s life, the good news is there are more treatments available today than ever before. Before we dive into the solutions I want to help you understand what depression actually is. Let’s take a dive into the science behind depression. 

Note: As a caveat before going any further— nobody currently under close medical supervision should change their current prescription. Prior to undergoing any changes, be sure to consult with your doctor as to your best course of action.  

What is Depression?

Past generations generally viewed depression—and the like, with rose-colored glasses. Feelings were often times pushed to the side or held deep within forever. Nowadays the medical community has come a long way towards understanding the nature of depression.

The mayo clinic defines depression as “The persistent feeling of sadness or loss of interest that characterizes major depression can lead to a range of behavioral and physical symptoms. These may include changes in sleep, appetite, energy level, concentration, daily behavior, or self-esteem. Depression can also be associated with thoughts of suicide.” (3) 

Many people get depression confused with sadness, but depression is actually “an illness with significant neurobiological consequences involving structural, functional and molecular alterations in several areas of the brain.” (4) In other words, depression can actually change your brain at a neurological level. Therefore, it's important we protect the brain as we would other parts of the body.

What Causes Depression?

Clinical depression can be caused by both lifestyle and genetic factors. 

Some lifestyle choices that can impact depression include:

  • Physical or emotional abuse
  • Medication interactions
  • Conflicts with loved ones
  • Death
  • Life events such as job loss or divorce
  • Substance abuse

Events in life can cause depression, but there is a substantial genetic link as well. Studies performed on twins have provided strong evidence to the hereditary factors related to depression. A meta-analysis of twin research shows the heritability rate for depression is 37% (6). An interesting note is that genetic factors have been shown to play a greater role in developing major depression in men than in women (7). Depression can affect anyone, even people who may not outwardly exhibit symptoms.

How Depression Affects Lives

Depression is a disorder that can affect all parts of your daily life. Clinical depression is typically characterized by a longer-than-normal duration of sadness in which individuals get stuck in what can sometimes feel like endless grief.

And depression doesn’t only affect one’s mental state, it can also lead to physical problems as well. The American Journal of Preventive Medicine published an article in 2002 which concluded that depression can lead to the development of coronary heart disease in healthy subjects (8).

Depression can affect a number of bodily functions including:

  • Central nervous system
  • Digestive system
  • Weight gain or weight loss
  • Cardiovascular problems
  • Thoughts of suicide
  • Weakened immune system

As you can see depression can impact your entire state of being, but there are treatment options available to help you overcome it.

Drug Treatments 

There are a number of medical options available if you choose to seek treatment. There are several classes of drugs available including:

  • Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)
  • Serotonin and norepinephrine repute inhibitors (SNRIs)
  • Tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs)

Antidepressants in combination with psychotherapy can help people treat depression. Not every prescription works right on the first try. It may take another drug of the same class or a different class of depression medicines to get it right. Work closely with your doctor if you want to follow the prescription route.

Natural Treatments

Being depressed can throw your whole life out of rhythm but creating positive lifestyle changes can help fix that.

  1. Develop a structured routine and stick to your schedule
  2. Set daily goals (no matter how insignificant they may seem)
  3. Exercise—regular exercise is one of the greatest ways of naturally treating depression
  4. Follow a healthy diet based around whole foods with minimal processed goods
  5. Get adequate sleep
  6. Practice positive thinking

You can also try natural supplements such as:

  • Ginseng 
  • Chamomile
  • Lavender
  • Saffron
  • Omega-3 fatty acids

These supplements have been shown to lower stress and help manage depression, but it's important to note again that you should consult with your doctor prior to making any changes to your prescription or lifestyle.

What Should You Do?

If you or someone you know is suffering from depression just know there are resources available. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline provides confidential support for people in distress and can be reached by contacting their toll-free number at 1-800-273-8255.

Depression is an all too common disorder in America, but the good news is that there are tools available designed to help you overcome these obstacles. If you feel like someone in your life may be suffering, reach out to them and let them know you care.

I firmly believe that mental health is an important component to overall well-being. A healthy body and mind go hand-in-hand. If you have any questions or would like to reach out to me, feel free to ask.

 

Kindest regards,

Sean Torbati


 

References

https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/suicide.shtml

https://www.dbsalliance.org/education/depression/statistics/

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/depression/symptoms-causes/syc-20356007  

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2228409/ 

https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/products/databriefs/db303.htm 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11007705 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11352363 

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0749379702004397

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