Depression is one of the leading causes of suffering and disability. Its symptoms include a persistent sad, anxious or "empty" mood, feelings of hopelessness, pessimism and worthlessness, and a loss of interest in hobbies and activities once enjoyed. Depression can affect anybody and does – from business owners and CEO’s of multinational corporations, to mothers, doctors, children, school teachers and laborers, stress, anxiety and depression knows no boundaries.
The psychological symptoms of depression are just the tip of the iceberg. Because the brain is the body's "control center," the effects of depression spread throughout the body, often resulting in problems with sleep, appetite, energy level, motivation, memory, and concentration. Performing everyday activities can be an enormous challenge for people who are depressed.
Symptoms of Depression
The symptoms of depression vary from person to person and vary over time. Not everyone who is depressed has every symptom. Some people have a few, and others have many. While many times those suffering from depression are unlikely to recognize it, typically the symptoms indicative of depression are:
Feelings of hopelessness, pessimism
Insomnia, early-morning awakening, or oversleeping
Appetite and/or weight loss or overeating and weight gain
Persistent physical symptoms that do not respond to treatment, such as headaches, digestive disorders, and chronic pain
Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, helplessness
Difficulty concentrating, remembering and making decisions
Thoughts of death or suicide, suicide attempts
Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities that were once enjoyed, including sex
Decreased energy, fatigue
Persistent sad, anxious or "empty" mood
Depression can make you feel exhausted, worthless, helpless, and hopeless. Negative thoughts and feelings can make some people feel like giving up. It is important to realize that these negative views are part of the depression and typically do not reflect the actual circumstances. Negative thinking begins to fade as treatment takes effect.
More Than Stressed Out
People who are "stressed out" may think that their current situation is to blame, but a prolonged case of the blues or a chronic lack of energy that interferes with normal functioning is usually the result of a numerous processes in the body. Typically, these involve stressors of a cognitive, emotional, psychological nature which result in cascade of hormonal changes affecting virtually every body function.
The Mind/Body Connection
Physiologically, the mind and body are intricately connected through complicated hormonal pathways. Changes in one area results in a cascade of changes in other areas.
Our mind and emotions activate our physiology through three major pathways:
The Musculoskeletal System – primarily our head, shoulders, neck, and low back.
The Sympathetic Nervous System, which causes increases in heart and respiration rates, blood clotting, and contraction of the fallopian tubes, GI tract, and large muscle groups.
The Psychoneuroendocrine System – leading to the activation of our pituitary gland, which controls over thirty-six hormones. Virtually every body process, including our immune system, is indirectly influenced through the pituitary gland. Therefore, every aspect of our physical, emotional and psychological health is influenced by our thoughts and emotions.
By virtue of the intricately connected pathways between psychological processes and other systems of the body, the treatment for most stress-related disorders including anxiety and depression requires a comprehensive diagnostic and treatment plan which specifically intervenes on the level of cognition, behavior, emotions and their impact on the musculoskeletal system, sympathetic nervous sytem and the psychoneuroendocrine system.
Mind/Body Behavioral Medicine Treatments Mind/body medicine refers to the application of the biopsychosocial model of health as treatment for stress-related symptoms and chronic illness. Its effectiveness is the result of intervening at the root causes of imbalances of overlapping systems in the body leading to the formation of symptoms and suffering. Mind/body medicine integrates cognitive-behavioral, psychodynamic and psychophysiological interventions, therapeutic exercise physiology, clinical nutrition and belief within the context of stress reduction and relapse prevention. Mind/body behavioral medicine coupled with state-of-the-art medicine achieves the most successful outcomes for many conditions resulting in significant lessening or elimination of symptoms related to stress. It diminishes the interference in life that comes from suffering from such debilitating illnesses.
Today, increasing numbers of people are educating themselves on the leading scientific findings and clinical programs spanning the last 25 years, and are turning to mind/body medicine as the most effective scientifically-validated holistic approach to enhance the natural healing capacities of body and mind. To that end in 1998 the National Institutes on Health (NIH), began establishing mind/body medical centers in various parts of the United States to expand research, education and clinical applications in this area.
A Devastating Illness
Research shows that depression increases the risk of death for people of all ages. For those with other illnesses such as type 2 diabetes and certain infections, depression can make their symptoms worse. Elderly people with depression may be at higher risk for Alzheimer's disease, and depression may increase their chance of being admitted into a nursing home.
No one knows better the ravages of depression than the estimated 20 million Americans of every age who suffer from depression. Although women and older people have higher rates of depression, depression can strike anyone at any time. Those who have recently experienced a traumatic event, such as a divorce, job loss or sudden death of a loved one, may be at higher risk.
Anxiety and Depression Together
In many ways, depression and anxiety are two faces of one disorder, with similar genetics and overlapping neurobiology. The psychological and biological nature of the vulnerability are very similar. Those with a particular vulnerability react with anxiety to life stressors, while others in addition become depressed with a corresponding cognitive or behavioral slowing down in addition to other symptoms. At the core of both anxiety and depression, research points to overactivity of the stress response system, which heightens the emotional centers of the brain, including the “fear center” in the amygdala. Typically, the most effective and comprehensive treatments that work best for depression also combat anxiety, with mind/body medical interventions including cognitive-behavioral therapy intervening at response patterns central to both conditions.
Treatment Outcomes and Recommendations Mind/body medicine represents the most effective treatment with respect to preventing relapse in anxiety/depression. Once you are involved in a treatment program, expect your mood to improve gradually. Feeling better takes time. People rarely "snap out of" depression/anxiety, but they can feel a little better day-to-day. As your depression/anxiety responds to treatment, positive thinking will replace the negative thinking that is part of the depression/anxiety. Postpone important decisions until the depression/anxiety has lifted. Before deciding to make a significant decision, such as changing jobs, getting married or divorced, discuss it with others who know you well and have a more objective view of your situation.