Do you experience depression? Do you wonder what causes it? Or do you believe it isn’t clinical depression because it was triggered by a stressful event? Depression is diagnosed by the number of symptoms, duration, and distress. People tell me their mood that was caused by a challenging life experience is not clinical depression. Many believe depression descends on the mind without reason. This is interesting because the only diagnosis with which I am familiar that comes out of the blue is panic attacks with a diagnosis of panic disorder.
I thought some of you might find it helpful if I addressed some of the things triggering depression. Keep in mind depression is genetic so if you get depressed, you are predisposed through your chromosomes/DNA. Despite this predisposition, events can trigger depression to erupt, and sometimes being clear about the triggers can help to reduce the severity.
No matter what triggers or causes the depression, its diagnosis, unlike panic disorder, is symptom-based, not cause-based. Sometimes, it will be caused by seasonal changes i.e., a lack of sunshine. We’re pretty familiar with this type of depression in the Pacific Northwest. It’s called SAD-seasonal affective disorder- but it’s still clinical depression. This type of depression is probably related to vitamin D deficiencies. Ask your doctor to test you for vitamin D deficiencies.
Depression, like other mood and anxiety disorders, can also be triggered by a dearth of nutrients. This lack of nutrients can be caused by eating behaviors: losing one’s motivation to eat, eating processed food, or believing that if they start eating in the morning they are more likely to overeat. The truth is that if you restrict what you eat during the day, your metabolism will slow down to conserve what it is getting, starving the nonvital organs. Then what you eat in the evening won’t be enough to keep your brain healthy. More notably, your body will give these valuable calories to your heart, lungs, and other vital organs. Your brain will suffer and with it, your mood. So, eat regularly and as healthily as you can.
Stressors can cause depression if you’re predisposed. These could be big things like a death, divorce, job loss or change, moving, etc. Depression can also be triggered by small stressors like tests, fights, or minor illnesses. Any stressor can interfere with your mood stability. So, do your self-care: exercise, meditate, socialize, do yoga, and do a variety of other pleasant activities to help yourself feel better. Depression also usually follows mania, so if you have bipolar disorder, preventing mania will usually prevent depression.
Medication is the common treatment for depression. But medication can also cause depression, the issue it claims to solve. Anti-psychotics often cause depression. All medications interfere with the body’s ability to absorb the nutrients it needs from the foods we eat. Because of this, the longer we’re on medication, the more problems we will have absorbing the nutrients from food and the more negative side effects we will have from those medications. If you have to take medication, you’ll need vitamins to help your brain continue to get the nutrients it needs.
There are also symptoms of depression that if nurtured, it will grow exponentially. Sleep disturbances can cause depression, sleeping too much or too little. 90% of the population needs to sleep 7-9 hours but if you’re predisposed to getting depression, sleeping less or more can attract depression like a magnet. If you lose motivation, allowing yourself to stay inside, in bed, or avoiding friends and activities will also exacerbate depression. I have a client who always says, “I know I need to do the opposite” of what his inclination is. This is his way of recognizing that if he wants to stay in bed, he needs to get up; if he doesn’t want to go for a walk, he needs to go; and if he doesn’t feel like eating, he needs to eat. Sometimes, doing the opposite of what you are compelled to do helps you avoid getting more depressed.
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