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The times where we thought of depression as a just synonym for prolonged sadness are long gone. Depression is starting to be known as more as a disease, as it is the case for an entire assortment of mental illnesses. The stigma behind mental illnesses in general still stand, depression is unfortunately as stigmatized as …   Read More

The times where we thought of depression as a just synonym for prolonged sadness are long gone. Depression is starting to be known as more as a disease, as it is the case for an entire assortment of mental illnesses. The stigma behind mental illnesses in general still stand, depression is unfortunately as stigmatized as all of the others. Still, to say you are suffering of depression is akin to admitting you are weak, therefore the automatic response upon the suspicion of depression is, in a lot of cases, to keep it hidden. Before I continue, I should note that there are those who have criticize me in the past for writing about mental health, mainly, as they point out, because I am not myself an expert. To those critics I say this: I may not be an expert, but I know how to do my research and know to cite those sources I used from people who are experts. The truth is even those so called “experts” on the topic of mental health, are actually still in dark as what truly causes them, how they develop and what treatments should be used. What I offer is a glimpse of what is starting to be known:

1. The weather

dreary_weather_depression_by_manbearpiglet-d5kygqr Humans and plants do share similar traits. For one, we have an circulatory system, which is –if you look at it as is– like a system of branches. Another similarity is that we both need sunlight. Unlike plants, we don’t produce food from it, but in contrast, we do extract vitamin D from it, which is essential for a good health. Lack of sunlight also has to do with the amount of melatonin that gets produced by our bodies. It appears some of us are more sensitive to sunlight to others, but I am not the one who believes it means only those who are sensitive who should be concerned about it. The recent version of The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) have come up with two flavours of mental illness type disease, but primarily it is the seasonal affective disorder (SAD).

Many studies have shown that people with seasonal affective disorder feel better after exposure to bright light.” – WebMD

The other component to this is how exposure to sunlight disrupts circadian rhythms, or the body’s internal clock. This is why when the days get shorter circadian rhythms may become de-synchronized and trigger depression. For most people with SAD, depressive symptoms resolve in springtime with increasing hours of daylight. when the days lengthen out. The fact is however, science still knows little as to how some people are more sensitive to sunlight than others. It does prove worrying seeing that in countries that experience long months of winter, with longer nights it should be a source of concern for those people.

2. Technology

A University of Missouri study shows that if your Facebook lurking triggers envy, then depression may follow.
A University of Missouri study shows that if your Facebook lurking triggers envy, then depression may follow.

Technology gets blamed for a lot of things these days, and it is more so because it is just so much more a part of our lives than it ever was. As I have written before on this website, I will end up siding with the fault in the hands of us humans rather than the the tools we end up expose to. As it is in the handguns debate, do guns kill people? or do people kill people? To me the answer is simply: people kill people, how they choose to do this, it really does not matter. It is the same in this case, technology can be a cause of depression, or rather it is how people use technology that can be a cause of depression. Only the last couple of decades that we have gone from using typewriters to using computers for more than just typing. Most office environments have a computer per worker, meaning a work day involves seating in front a computer for eight hours fives a week. And as if this is not enough, during the lunch break the computer screen exposure does not end, as workers owning a smartphone will choose to look at their phones, even after work hours, on the way home. Once they arrive home, they will likely look at their computers at home or watch TV. A three-year study by Chiba University in Japan used 25,000 workers looking at their use of technology and concluded that:

…of the 25,000 workers, many complained of feeling depressed, anxious and reluctant to get up for work in the mornings.They were also plagued by broken sleep and reported problems getting along with fellow employees.” – The Daily Mail

As if this is not enough, long term exposure to a computer screen lead to employees becoming more susceptible to a variety of mental illnesses. What is also true is that the radiation emitted by computers screens of all sizes can trick the brain to interpret them as sun rays, therefore deregulating the release of melatonin in the body, more about this below.

3. Thyroid disease

hypothyroidism_wegzw Only because of the preparation involved to write this article that I came across the term hypothyroidism, which is a physical illness affecting the thyroid gland. Low of levels of thyroid (or a specific set of hormones) can lead to a variety of symptoms, such as feeling sluggish, being sensitive to cold, constipation and most importantly major depression. Like diabetes sufferers, depression is yet but a symptom of a larger problem. This is why a family doctor may want to screen out diabetes when a patient may imply being depressed. As soon as a patient begins to be treated for diabetes, the depression often goes away or it is treated, since the appropriate levels of glucose happens to be the direct cause. Similarly it is in hypothyroidism, as when it is treated the depression can also go away, since it was just a symptom of this larger disease.

Scientists now consider thyroid hormone one of the major “players” in brain chemistry disorders. And as with any brain chemical disorder, until treated correctly, thyroid hormone imbalance has serious effects on the patient’s emotions and behavior.” – Dr. Ridha Arem, in his book, The Thyroid Solution: A Mind Body Program for Beating Depression and Regaining Your Emotional and Physical Health

4. Sleeping (or lack thereof)

shutterstock_165362717 We have here a chicken and egg situation, do sleep disorders happen because of depression? or does depression happen because of sleep disorders? What I would like to explore is the latter. For one, sufferers of Insomnia, a well known sleep disorder, have a ten-fold risk of developing depression, more so than those who do not suffer from a sleep disorder. Similarly, another sleep disorder, such is obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) have a five-fold more risk of developing depression than those who do not suffer from a sleeping disorder. As it has been mention above with our usage of technology and the effects of the weather, sleeping in these times is largely influenced by these two factors. Although insomnia is a much serious sleeping problem, effects that are similar to that of insomnia can triggered by our usage of technology. For those who like to spend their nights looking at a computer screen, via their tablets or smartphones, sometimes even right before going to sleep or by their night tables as they attempt to enter sleeping. Radiation exposure, as mention, can trick the body to influence the release of melatonin, or in other words, to tell the brain not to release melatonin therefore affecting various functions of the body.

Sometimes it (melatonin) is referred to as your body’s trash collector, because it goes to every cell in your body and cleans out the free radicals and other toxins that are harmful to your cells. Melatonin is perhaps the most powerful anti-oxidant your body has.” – Talkboutsleep.com

It should also be mentioned that prolonged lack of melanin has been also been linked to the onset of cancer.

5. Where you live

vietnam-downtown Personally I have been very much adjusted to living in a large city. Living in Toronto now, the feeling has nothing but become even stronger than before. So much so, I decided to move in right at the downtown core. I could not be happier as a result, this however is not feeling shared by everyone. City living can have negative effects to those who are sensitive to the daily traffic of people and cars. The visual and audio noise can translate into high levels of stress, if it is not alone produced by a commute during rush hours, where traffic is at its peak, city living has proven scientifically to have a direct effect on the psyche. According to a 2011 study by the journal Nature, people who live in dense urban areas have a 38% higher risk to develop mood disorders. The explanation in the journal is that living in a highly populated city exposes the individual to various sources of stress.

Our results identify distinct neural mechanisms for an established environmental risk factor, link the urban environment for the first time to social stress processing, suggest that brain regions differ in vulnerability to this risk factor across the lifespan…” – Nature, International Weekly Journal of Science.

6. Lack of fish in you diet

Plant-based and animal sources of Omega-3 acids Not all of us like fish, this is true even at home, meaning my spouse who by default despises the taste and smell of fish. She would not be alone, there are a lot of other people who simply cannot stand the taste of fish. Of course, fish in general is not what I am referring to, but more so certain types of fish that are high in omega-3 fatty acids. This healthy type of fats are found mainly on salmon and vegetable oils. According to recent studies, such is this 2009 study, have found a high correlation between levels of omega-3 fatty acids and the onset of depression. The association is clear with those who consume less fish. According to the assertions between fish and depression is that neurotransmitters like serotonin are regulated by fatty acids like the types found in fish.

Omega-3 fatty acids play a critical role in the development and function of the central nervous system. Emerging research is establishing an association between omega-3 fatty acids and major depressive disorder.” – U.S. National Library of Medicine

7. Poor family relationships (or relationships in general)

518355986_c_o Out of all the items suspected causes of depression on this, this one is perhaps the least suspected. Especially not, if you are someone who stems from a family that you do not have even a clue as to why it might be perceived as harmful in any way. Of course, we all have “bad” memories, perhaps involving fights, but many have much more severe experiences that like many other shocking life episodes can lead to a lot of stress that can translate to the onset of mental illnesses if not dealt with soon enough. A 2007 study by the American Journal of Psychiatry entertains this and found that men who didn’t get a ling with their siblings before age 20 were more likely to be depressed later in life than who did.

Poorer relationships with siblings prior to age 20 and a family history of depression independently predicted both the occurrence of major depression and the frequency of use of mood-altering drugs by age 50, even after adjustment for the quality of childhood relationships with parents.- American Journal of Psychiatry

There are other surprisingly reasons for depression that deserved to be discussed, like diabetes, drug use side effects, whether prescribed or unprescribed, and finally like the point 3, it might just be related to hormonal imbalances. If one thing is for sure, there isn’t one magical cure for depression, there is no magical pill to make it go all away. Depression is a complex disease and deserves much more awareness if we want to avoid dealing with it.   Sources:

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  • Stanley Anderson

    I’ve suffered from anxiety, depression and panic attacks for as long as I can remember, at one point it was so bad that I was spending all my day contemplating suicide and the part that angered me the most was the fact that I couldn’t sleep and the severe insomnia almost drove me mad. I’ve even taken pills and it kind of worked but they made me feel hollow inside. Only a couple months ago I come across a review about a program called the Thought Elevators program it contains some meditation techniques (I know that it may seems like BS if you are not already into meditation but at least give it a chance) that helped me to get rid of depression, now I fell more confident, happy and for the first time in many years I can say that I am happy to be alive
    If someone is interested you can read a honest review (in my opinion at least) at: