Depression: More Than 100 Solutions for Turning Your Life around through Positive Thinking, Nutritional Healing, and More

Depression: More Than 100 Solutions for Turning Your Life around through Positive Thinking, Nutritional Healing, and More



Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781579542320
Publisher: Potter/Ten Speed/Harmony/Rodale
Publication date: 06/28/2001
Series: Doctors' Book of Home Remedies Series
Edition description: REV
Pages: 144
Product dimensions: 4.90(w) x 7.00(h) x 0.41(d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

the Storm

    Have we lost our heads, writing a home remedies bookfor depression? Although experts consider depression the"common cold" of mental health, we realize that this topicis far more challenging than the sniffles and aches for whichour famous home remedy gurus give quick and natural solutions.

    Depression affects nearly 10 percent of adult Americans,and major depression is the leading cause of disability in theUnited States and worldwide. It can be wrenching to yourrelationships; disrupt your eating and sleeping habits; impairyour reasoning, memory, concentration, and sexual ability;and increase your risk for heart disease, accidents, substanceabuse, and death. Without proper treatment, painfulsymptoms can endure for months, years, or a lifetime.

    Actually, the frequency and severity of the problem is allthe more reason that we wanted to write a home remediesbook on depression—when you have it, you need to takebetter care of yourself than ever. What could be more appropriatethan a book that will help you clear up what's stressfulin your lifestyle, power up your diet, and offer positive waysto resolve problems?

    Whether you are struggling your way out of the grief ofa recent loss, have seasonal or occasional bouts of the blues,or have a clinically diagnosed depressive illness, we believethat you will find it refreshing to know how you can take aproactive approach, using hundreds of proven and practicalmethods.

   What's more, you can and will feel better. Experts willtell you that once properly diagnosed, even the most severeforms of depression are highly manageable and very treatable.

    The first steps are to determine if you need a doctor'shelp and find out how to get a diagnosis. If you are diagnosedwith depressive illness, you will find that many of the 100-plustechniques in this book can ingeniously enhance thetreatment prescribed by your doctor. If your blues are temporaryor mild, this book is loaded with nondrug strategiesto facilitate a speedy and full recovery.

Know the Signs

    Depression can come on suddenly, seemingly for noreason or as the result of a stressful or life-altering event. Itcan also grow slowly over months and years, graduallydraining away happiness and hope.

    "The illness creates the same kinds of painful feelingsthat you'd experience after a death in the family, a failedromance, a lost job, a serious illness, or any other life crisisthat leaves you feeling sad, lonely, or 'down' for a period oftime," explains Jonathan Alpert, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professorof psychology at Harvard Medical School and associatedirector of the Depression Clinical and ResearchProgram at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. "Thedifference is that while you generally recover from moststressful events like a death or other serious loss within aperiod of months, depression often refuses to go away on itsown." Instead it persists, getting in the way of your job orrelationships with family and friends, and basically preventsyou from getting on with your life.

    Although it can take many forms, here are somecommon symptoms of depression.

    · Persistent sadness

    · Loss of self-confidence

    · Feelings of hopelessness or helplessness

    · Numbness (lack of feelings or emotions)

    · Lethargy or increased lack of energy or drive

    · Insomnia or problems getting up in the morning

    · Persistent headaches, stomachaches, backaches, or muscle or joint pain

    · Increased difficulty making decisions

    · Problems remembering things or concentrating

    · Loss of interest in pleasurable activities, including hobbies, sports, and sex

    · Increased isolation from friends and family members

    · Eating disturbances (weight gain or weight loss)

    · Panic attacks

    · Overwhelming feelings of guilt or fear

    · Frequent crying

    · Increased arguments with friends or coworkers

    · Loss of interest in saving money or controlling how much you spend

    · Dangerous or compulsive risk taking

    · Thoughts of your own death or suicide

    To be clinically diagnosed as having depression, youhave to have a depressed mood or loss of interest in ordinaryactivities for at least 2 weeks, plus four or more of the symptomsof depression listed above. If you fit this description,see your primary care doctor as soon as possible.

    Before making an official diagnosis, your doctor willwant to rule out any illness that may cause similar symptoms,such as thyroid conditions, lupus, multiple sclerosis,or diabetes. Hidden Mood Benders on page 11 will help youidentify, other possible underlying causes of your discontent.

    Depression may be missed because its complex andvaried symptoms often confuse family doctors who aren't inthe practice of looking for it. So, if you suspect depression,ask your family doctor to do a specific evaluation for it.

    If you can't get the help that you may feel you need,search your telephone directory under "mental health,""social services," "crisis prevention," or "hotlines" for a psychiatrist,psychologist, or counselor who can give you immediateattention. Hospital emergency rooms can also providetemporary help for an emotional problem, and their staff cantell you how and where to get further help.

It's Not in Your Head

    Whatever you do, don't avoid treatment because ofsomeone else's ignorance. The fact is, we live in a culturethat harbors unfair misconceptions, such as the belief thatdepression is a sign of weakness or that the depressedperson should "just snap out of it." Nothing could be furtherfrom the truth.

    The first idea to hold on to is that it's not your fault.

    For starters, the hormonal system that regulates thebody's responses to stress is often persistently overactive inmany patients with depression, which may explain classicsymptoms like edginess, moodiness, or sexual impairment.The mood-altering hormonal fluctuations of the menstrualcycle, pregnancy, childbirth, menopause, and oral contraceptiveshelp explain why women experience depressionalmost twice as often as men do. Shifts in hormone levelsalso are also a suspected factor in depression being acommon problem for teenagers, since major depression typicallybegins between the ages of 15 and 30.

    Modern brain-imaging technology offers a visual pictureof how the neural circuits responsible for moods, thinking,sleep, appetite, and behavior may not function properly indepressed people, or it may show that chemical messengerscalled neurotransmitters are impaired.

    Although there are more than 80 different types of neurotransmittersin the human brain, a select few of thesechemicals seem to have more control than others overmental functioning. They include epinephrine, histamine,dopamine, endorphins, and serotonin, which work togetherin a delicate balance to help you concentrate, remember,and perform other mental tasks. Many of the most popularantidepressant drugs are targeted to regulate those neurotransmitters.

    As far as how biological irregularities develop in the firstplace, experts believe that both genetics and certain lifestylefactors make people more vulnerable. "Some people aregenetically predisposed through family history to bedepressed," says Fred Straussburger, Ph.D., a clinical psychologistbased in McLean, Virginia. "It can be the result ofan abnormality in the family's biology that might make themmore susceptible to the disease, or it could be somethingenvironmental about the way your family operates or conditionsin which children were raised." If you come from afamily with a history of mental illness, you are about twotimes more likely than someone else to suffer from depression.

    The environmental factors suspected of breedingdepression include how much day-to-day conflict we experienceand how we react to it. Stress is one of the primarycauses of depression in the United States, says Susan Nolan-Hoeksema,Ph.D., professor of psychology at the Universityof Michigan in Ann Arbor.

    Major depression is more common in cities than in ruralareas, partly due to the increased agitation of dealing withtraffic, crime, and high-pressure lifestyles. "Most people withdepression don't have to look very far into their personallives to find that they feel overwhelmed by events and situationsthat they think are controlling them," says Dr. Nolan-Hoeksema.

    Social isolation is another liability. This is illustrated inthe high incidence of depression among elderly people whoare "shut in" and teens who consider themselves unable to"fit in."

    Hope lies in the promise that the more we understandthe factors that contribute to an emotional disorder, themore control we can have over reducing or preventing ourvulnerability to depression. For example, research showsthat people who exercise regularly over a long period of timehave far fewer bouts of depression than people who exerciseinfrequently or not at all. It is highly likely that this physicalrelease is beneficial because it lessens some of the stress factorsmentioned above.

Treatment and Self-Help

    Traditional treatment for clinical depression combinestalk therapy, peer support groups, and prescriptions for antidepressantdrugs like fluoxetine (Prozac), sertraline (Zoloft),and paroxetine (Paxil), although medication is increasinglybecoming the primary if not the sole thrust of mainstreamtreatment.

    The most popular medications are designed to compensatefor the imbalance of neurotransmitters in the brain.Since different drugs are suitable for different people, it isnot uncommon to test six or more medications in the firstyear of treatment. Each drug may take 8 weeks to produceany therapeutic benefit. As with all treatment options, youcan expect your mood to improve gradually, not immediately.Feeling better takes time, so experts stronglyencourage you to stay on your medication and not stoptaking prescribed drugs on your own.

    A nondrug approach. Herbs can support you in battlingdepression by increasing energy, bringing calm, and workingsimilarly to antidepressant drugs by regulating neurotransmitters.Natural supplements like SAM-e, 5-HTP, and St.John's wort are gaining popularity for providing a gentlemood lift, but unlike antidepressants, they have few sideeffects such as drowsiness, nausea, or sexual impairment. InGermany, prescriptions are written for St. John's wort 20times more frequently than for Prozac.

    Nowadays, you can pick up a bottle of supplements justabout anywhere, from the supermarket to the spa, but doctorsurge you not to experiment without their blessing.

    "Certain supplements may interact with the medicationsyour doctor has prescribed, or, if you avoid seeing aphysician, you may not find out if your depression symptomshave another cause, such as thyroid disease," pointsout Lauren Marangell, M.D., director of the center for mooddisorders at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston.

    If you're having trouble locating a doctor who is knowledgeableabout both pharmaceutical medications and naturalsupplements, contact the American Holistic MedicalAssociation at 6728 Old McLean Village Drive, McLean, VA22101, or log on to its Web site at

    Nutritional therapy. A healthy diet is vital for morethan keeping up your immunity and energy during times ofstress. With depression, as with any other illness, you cancount on food (and nutritional supplements) to supporthealing. Fresh greens and sunflower seeds, for example, arerich in compounds like tryptophan, lithium, omega-3 fattyacids, and phenylalanine—compounds that have a directimpact on mood. Solid evidence shows that taking nutrientssuch as vitamins B6, [B.sub.12], and C as well as zinc, magnesium,thiamin, and folic acid has relieved depression. In fact, somedoctors prescribe vitamins and minerals for their psychiatricpatients to enhance the effects of pharmaceutical treatments.See Diet, Herbs, and Supplements on page 33 forguidance in making wise food and nutrition choices for yourspecific needs.

    Emotional disclosure. According to research at DukeUniversity in Durham, North Carolina, talking with friends,confiding in a therapist, praying, and writing about yourthoughts are all highly beneficial physically and mentally.

    "There are several reasons why emotional disclosure isso effective," explains Daniel L. Segal, Ph.D., assistant professorof psychology at the University of Colorado at ColoradoSprings. "When you have something distressing onyour mind and you try to not think about it, that takes physiologicalwork and causes stress on your body." If you canlet out those thoughts in a structured way, you can reducestress on your body and often put the distressing thoughtsin a context where it's easier to see solutions, he says.

    You will find many writing exercises throughout thisbook, along with specific steps to open the lines of communicationwith loved ones and strangers and even how torediscover your spiritual side.

    Cognitive therapy. Cognitive therapies help a person tochange the negative styles of thinking and behaving that areassociated with depression. Researchers at the University ofBritish Columbia in Vancouver analyzed 28 separate studiesto determine how people fared after different types of mentalhealth therapy. Those who used cognitive therapy did betterthan 98 percent of those who had no other therapy, betterthan 70 percent of those who took antidepressant drugs, andbetter than 70 percent of those who tried traditional talktherapy.

    You don't necessarily need to pay a cognitive therapistto get results. Support groups will probably catch your negativethinking patterns, and Change Your Mood by ChangingYour Mind on page 71 provides exercises to examine andempower your attitude.

    Get physical. Nothing is more widely agreed uponamong health care practitioners than the value of regularexercise for emotional health. Whether you consult a psychologist,a family physician, or an alternative health practitioner,you will likely find a workout program high on yourtreatment list. We could go into elaborate explanations ofhow exercise releases feel-good chemicals or improves bloodcirculation to the brain, but you already know the mostcommon and most valuable denominator—it makes you feelgood. Walking is a favored activity among the experts interviewedfor this book, but all agree that the sport or activityshould be whatever appeals to you the most. See Relax andEnjoy Life on page 91 to motivate you to start moving, andfor other tips for a good-mood lifestyle.

    Self-nurturing. Alternative health techniques like musictherapy and aromatherapy are not only safe and easy, theyare also fun to experiment with. Better yet, science is beginningto recognize the value of these more "touchy-feely"approaches to well-being.

    In a Japanese study, 12 depressed men who were treatedwith citrus fragrance (aromatherapy) for 11 weeks were ableto dramatically decrease their doses of antidepressants.Researchers say that massage can release beneficial chemicalslike serotonin, which antidepressants work to enhance,and reduce levels of norepinephrine and cortisol, which anxietymedications attempt to lower. Treat yourself to some ofthe suggestions for relaxation and nurturing in Relax andEnjoy Life, or check Alternative Options on page 119 to finda holistic health practitioner who aims to soothe yourpsyche in the spirit of love and hope.

    "When diagnosed accurately and treated with eitherantidepressant medication or one of the many nondrug therapies,there is virtually no one who cannot be helped," saysJohn McIntyre, M.D., past president of the American PsychiatricAssociation. "Feel free to try as many things as youcan, because while depression can be a debilitating illness,if it is properly treated, your chances of making a completerecovery from the condition are very good."

Excerpted from The Doctors Book of Home Remedies for DEPRESSION by . Copyright © 2001 by Rodale Inc.. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Table of Contents

Does it feel as if a dark cloud has been following you around
lately? Depression is remarkably common and can dampen your
emotions for a painfully long time. But you have countless
tools within yourself to ease the blues. By recognizing what
symptoms warrant professional help and empowering yourself
with the 100-plus self-care remedies in this book, it's
possible to make a full recovery.
The source of your rankled emotions may be as deceptively
simple as a household cleaner or a vitamin deficiency—or
as complicated as a hormonal disorder or past trauma.
Psychotherapists and doctors help you uncover issues
that could be covert sources of depression and provide
specific steps to turning them around.
Today's headlines hail a dizzying list of herbs,
vitamins, and other supplements as "breakthrough"
treatments for depression. Let experts in natural health
and psychology help you determine if there's a supplement
that can work for you. Also learn about the surprisingly
strong link between your food and your mood, with
strategies such as eating fish to keep your emotions
even and curbing baked goods to avoid a crash.
exorcise your negative thinking patterns. Free yourself
from distorted ideas,clobber self-defeating thoughts,
and pump up your self-esteem. Gain the peace of mind
you've wanted all your life by finally accepting your
Insist on being surrounded by the people, environment,
and activities that make you vibrant, while avoiding
habits and traps that bring you down. And if you
occasionally do slip into the frazzled zone, learn to
create your own personal spa with the experts' master
mood-soothing remedies.
When you need to talk to someone with a fresh
perspective or are seeking someone to gently ease the
hurt, consider the holistic healers in this miniguide.
Music therapists, acupuncturists, intuitive healers,
and other alternative health practitioners are uniquely
trained to help bring relief for your headaches and

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