What is it?
Depression is a very common mental disorder. In the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of mental disorders, it is classified as a mood pathology, or associated with strong and severe mood swings.
Mood is considered as a group of persisting feelings associated with evaluative and cognitive states which influence all the future evaluations, feelings and actions. Symptoms associated with depression are very characteristic and common among many patients.
Depression can be classified into different types, depending on its causes and symptoms:
- Unipolar depression, associated with depressive and anxiety issues, with dysthymic disorders, that is, mood alterations characterized by abrupt alternation of positive periods with completely negative periods, or depression from unspecified disorder, characterized by momentary or transient states, such as premenstrual phase.
- Bipolar depression, characterized by hypomanic states, mania and strong personality disorders.
The main difference between the two is that depression is unipolar, meaning that there are no periods of abnormally elevated mood, while bipolar disorder includes symptoms of mania.
Symptoms associated with depression also fall into several classes:
- Cognitive symptoms include executive dysfunction, impaired learning and memory, reduced attention and concentration, and lower processing speed;
- Affective symptoms such as feelings of sadness, tearfulness, emptiness or hopelessness, decreased sexual desire.
- Motivational symptoms such as exhaustion, fatigue, physical and mental weakness, total abandonment and absence of any form of physical activity;
- Behavioral symptoms. Depending on the specific case, we may have inappetence or a continuous sense of appetite, emotional satisfaction, sleeping disorders such as insomnia, hypersomnia, and obstructive sleep apnea.
- Physical symptoms such as headache, tachycardia, muscle, bone, joint pain, alternating constipation or diarrhea, headache, mental confusion.
The causes of depression can environmental, genetic, emotional or psychological:
- Genetic factors: A positive family history is the most important risk factor for developing a depressive disorder
- Environmental factors: different environmental conditions have been associated with different types of depression. Social degradation, poverty, poor schooling, trauma, sexual abuse, recent and recurrent bereavement, unemployment, divorce, presence of serious illness, isolation social, school bullying or workplace bullying.
- Psychological factors: these include individual predispositions, pessimism, low self-esteem, a tendency to self-criticism, a state of continuous suffering, the birth of an unwanted child, retirement, aging or the advent of adolescence.
The diagnosis of depression is made through a visit made by specialists such as neurologists, psychiatrists, or psychologists. Where the presence of symptoms such as unhappiness, a sense of oppression, poor appetite, sleeping disorders, pessimism, reduced concentration, chronic fatigue, feelings of failure and helplessness and low mood, suicidal tendencies and self-injurious behaviour, for at least a month, confirms the diagnosis.
In severe cases, therapy for depression is pharmacological. The drugs prescribed are antidepressants.
These drugs modify the secretion of neurotransmitters in the brain, such as serotonin, dopamine and noradrenaline, involved in mood regulation.
Among the antidepressants that increase serotonin secretion, in order to improve the patient’s mood, we have citalopram, fluoxetine and sertraline.
The effect of these drugs differs from patient to patient, but it is important that patients taking these drugs must follow a targeted diet and avoid tyramine, a trace amin present in various cheeses, packaged products, pickles and wine. In fact, tyramine, in conjunction with antidepressants, causes a significant increase in blood pressure.
Furthermore, like all other types of drugs, antidepressants have long-term side effects, such as headaches, tachycardia, erectile dysfunction, decreased sexual desire, dry mouth, constipation, sleepiness and enlarged prostate in men.
It must be said and emphasized that chronic and severe cases of depression can only be treated pharmacologically, while mild and moderate cases can also be treated with herbal medicine.
There are several plants that are indicated as a cure and prevention for depression:
- Reishi is an excellent mushroom for fighting chronic fatigue and a bad mood;
- Violet infusion is useful for fighting sadness and anxious states;
- St. John’s wort can benefit sleep by helping to regulate mood and by increasing the production of the body’s sleep hormone, melatonin;
- Chamomile flowers or anise seeds reduce the sense of oppression, typical of depressed patients;
- The Verbena Officinalis Mother Tincture reduces anxiety and panic attacks.
The diet to treat depression must include foods rich in vitamin B, with positive effects on performance, memory and neuronal anti-aging:
- Vitamin B1 or thiamine, performs important functions for the activity of neurons. It is present in oats, almonds, walnuts, whole grains, wheat, broad beans and corn;
- Vitamin B3 or niacin, often used as a cure for mental disorders, is present in chicken, pig or horse liver, salmon, tuna, mackerel or wheat bran;
- Vitamin B6 or pyridoxine is present in sunflower seeds, celery, milk and derivatives and eggs.