Depression is a state of feeling ‘down’ which lasts for a long but indefinite period of time

What to look for:
For major depression, you may experience four or more of the following:
*  persistent sadness, pessimism.
*  feelings of guilt, worthlessness, helplessness, or hopelessness.
*  loss of interest or enjoyment in nearly every aspect of life.
*  lack of concentrating.
*  insomnia or oversleeping.
*  weight gain or loss.
*  fatigue, lack of energy.
*  loss of interest in sex
*  physical symptoms such as headaches, backaches, stomach troubles, constipation and blurred vision
*  anxiety, agitation, irritability.
*  thoughts of suicide or death.
*  slow speech; slow movements.
*  drug or alcohol abuse, a drop in school performance, difficulty concentrating (In children and adolescents)

We all feel down at times for different reasons. But ongoing depression is another matter.

Depression can last from a few weeks to 6 months or more.

Major depression, or depressive illness, is a serious condition that can lead to an inability to function or even to suicide. Sufferers experience not only a depressed mood but also more harmful symptoms such as those listed above. It is a cyclical illness, so though most patients recover from their first depressive episode, the recurrence rate is high.

Major depression often appears unexpectedly, is seemingly unprovoked, and often disappears unexpectedly as well, usually in 6 to 12 months. Because of its disabling effects or the possibility of suicide, major depression needs treatment.


There are many cause of depression. Depressive reaction, or 'normal depression,' occurs as a result of a particular event for example, when a family member dies.

Depressed moods can also be a side effect of medication, hormonal changes (such as before menstrual periods or after childbirth), or a physical illness, such as the flu or a viral infection.

Although the exact causes of major depression are unknown, researchers currently believe that both forms are caused by a malfunction in the brain chemical (these chemicals help monitor and regulate moods).

The elderly who suffer from depression are often misdiagnosed as having senile dementia which is incurable. This is unfortunate as depression is treatable and there is a high success rate once properly diagnosed.

You should consult a psychiatrist in order to be properly diagnosed if you have any of the above symptoms.


Traditional Treatment
There are many therapies, both conventional and alternative, that are available for depression. Treatments may vary according to the cause of the depression and its severity. Conventional methods include psychotherapy, antidepressant drugs, and electroconvulsive therapy (ECT).

Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) or electric shock treatment is still rather controversial but has been refined over the last 20 years. This form of therapy should only be considered once all other options have been explored.

Alternative/Natural Treatments
Many alternative therapies are effective but should only ever be thought of as complementary to conventional medical treatments.

In addition to your conventional therapies you might want to investigate yoga and acupuncture both having had some success with other people suffering from depression.

Aromatherapy - Aromatherapy may ease mental fatigue and help with sleep. The essential oils that may benefit depression are basil, clary, jasmine, rose, and chamomile (Matricaria recutita). The oil may be inhaled, put in a bath, or on the edge of your pillow (1 or 2 drops). (see aromatherapy for more information.)

Chinese Herbs - There are a number of Chinese Remedies for depression - see a Proffesional for advice on the one that will suit you.

Exercise - Exercise should be a part of any therapy for depression; it improves blood flow to the brain, elevates mood, and relieves stress.

Herbal Therapies - An experienced herbalist will recommend a particular combination of herbs tailored to your specific symptoms. St Johns Wort is a popular choice for depression.

Bach Flower Remedies - Gentian for those of you who are easily discouraged, gorse for feelings of hopelessness and despair, wild rose for apathy and mustard for depression for unknown reasons. (see our section on Bach Flower Remedies)

Dietary Considerations
Because depressive symptoms are exacerbated by nutritional deficiencies, good nutrition is important.

Try supplements such as B complex, potassium, zinc. L-tryptophan, L- tyrosine, Lecithin, ginseng and valerian.

Proper diet, exercise, vacations, no overwork and stress, doing things you enjoy all help keep the blues at bay.


(c) Medicines Information Pty Ltd

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