Depression is not just a mood disorder. It does not simply affect the way you feel, emotionally. It may impact the way that you feel physically as well. Heart disease and depression are linked together as are depression and thyroid disease. Diet may have an impact on depression and vice versa. Studies have shown that eating a Mediterranean diet may reduce the risk of depression by one third. (Source: the Mayo Clinic) The Mediterranean diet features a lot of fruits and vegetables, whole grain foods, and healthy fats, especially olives and olive oil.
Depression is a blanket term for a number of mood disorders that can range from temporary and transient depression after a major life changing event to more serious depressive disorders that can negatively impact one’s entire life. Everyone has a risk for depression at some point in their lives; however there are some factors that can make some people more vulnerable to one of these mood disorders than others. These factors include:
– Heredity: Depression does run in the family however researchers have not been able to fully explain either the how or the why for this. The younger the first depressive episode is in a family member, the higher your risk.
– Age: The highest risk of depression for women is between the ages of 20 and 29, while for men that highest risk is between the ages of 40 and 49. (Source: Sarason and Sarson 2005)
– Gender: Women are more likely to have a mood disorder, including depression; however the numbers may be skewed simply because more women are seeking psychiatric care and getting diagnosed than men do.
– Life Events: stressful life events, even those that may seem positive in nature, can cause stress, which in turn can lead to negative moods that can become depression.
– Lack of Social Support: Those who do not have friends and family to lean on have a higher risk of developing mood disorders than those who do.
Depression affects all aspects of a person’s life, including their interest in food, sleep, and sex and may also lead them to lose their job, which in turn can worsen the depression. Left untreated, depression can lead to serious problems with health and well being and can cause other conditions or diseases to become more serious or to develop. Those who have untreated depression are at high risk for suicide as well.
Many people may believe that depression is entirely psychological in nature, but it does have biological factors as well. The activity of several neurotransmitters including serotonin, dopamine, norepinephrine and epinephrine, gamma-amino butyric acid (GABA), and acetylcholine are all thought to play a role in depression. Each of these neurotransmitters is important for normal function in the brain and the body. In the simplest of terms: the neuron is stimulated and releases a chemical (the neurotransmitter) that carries the message to the next neuron and on until the right reaction has been accomplished or the stimulus has ceased to be active in the body. After the serotonin (or other neurotransmitter) has been transferred from one neuron to the other, it will be changed to another chemical form by an enzyme called monoamine oxidase (MAO). Serotonin changed to 5-HIAA.
Some of the first class and most commonly used anti-depressive medications work to keep the enzyme from changing serotonin and other neurotransmitters from being changed or decreased in the body and are called MAO inhibitors. These have had several negative side effects, however, and new classes of these drugs include the RIMAs or reversible inhibitors of monoamine oxidase. There are other drugs that are used to treat depression, of course, as well as other therapies that do not rely on medication at all.
Lacey is 26 years old and has been fired from the second job in a single year’s time. In addition, her three-year marriage has ended and her mother has just moved from the area and is now living across the country. Her father died when she was very young and she has never been very close to her sister or two brothers. Lacey had not been at the second job for long enough to make a lot of friends and she did not remain friendly with any of the people from her first job. For the past year or so she has been struggling with her mood which is leaving her feeling sluggish. She is also unable to eat most of the time, complaining of having no appetite whatsoever. When she does eat, it is typically only junk food and small amounts. She only wants to sleep, making it even harder for her to get a new job or to make new friends.
While Lacey knows that there is something wrong with her, she does not want to think that it can be a mood disorder. She knows that her aunt has been treated for bipolar depression for many years and that another relative on the other side of the family has also been treated for a mood disorder. Finally she cannot take it any longer and drags herself to the doctor where she is found to have major depressive disorder and is given a prescription medication to deal with the actual mood and will start therapy to deal with the other symptoms and factors of the disease.
In addition, the doctor told Lacey something she thought was very interesting: she was being put on a diet despite the fact that she was not eating at all and had actually lost weight. On this diet, Lacey will be given a prescribed amount of foods to eat- specific foods and nutrients to help her feel more energized and to manage the symptoms of her disorder. This will allow the medication to work better and hopefully with all three aspects of treatment working well together, she will be on her way to beating her depression.
First, she has to take her first medication in the morning with a breakfast that has equal amounts of protein and carbohydrates as well as a small amount of healthy fat. Between her morning meal and her afternoon meal, she will consume Profect, a liquid protein supplement from Protica that gives her an additional 25 grams of protein per serving. She will have a second serving of Profect between lunch and her evening meal. Even on days that she does not feel like eating, she can consume Profect, which is only 2.9 fluid ounces.
After a few weeks of counseling, medication, and better eating, she is starting to feel a little better. She has had three job interviews, including one that sounded pretty hopeful. She is also trying to be more open to meeting new people, including joining a support group that meets once a week plus allows for email contact every day as well. Lacey will continue to eat her healthy diet and has started to look forward to the support group, further signs that she is improving. Her counselor also likes to take her for walks for their sessions so she is getting exercise and fresh air as well.