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Posted Oct 22 2008 4:24pm
Anyone who has suffered from depression knows how debilitating it can be. As many as 2 million people may be suffering from depression in Canada alone. Depression is more than just "feeling blue" occasionally, and consists of feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, and sadness, together with sleeping difficulties. There are often changes in appetite that can vary from eating too much to not eating at all. Other feelings associated with depression can be a loss of interest, a lack of motivation, and a meaningless feeling about life in general. Suicidal thoughts may be present.

Depression is not the same as feeling sad as a result of loss. Grieving in the face of loss is a natural, normal experience. People grieve in different ways -- some people are very expressive and cry a lot, while others grieve quietly. It is natural to grieve the loss of a loved one, so don't let anybody talk you out of it. If you are still feeling intense grief after a year, then you may need to seek assistance.

Depression can result from external events such as highly stressful experiences that go on for a long time, from chronic illness, or from events that remind us of significant emotional experiences from our childhood that are unresolved. In depression we literally "depress" or suppress our feelings/emotions. When we hide our feelings, or keep them inside the result is depression. Some people do this without really understanding or realizing it, and have no idea why they are depressed.

There is therapy for depression, but unlike most doctors I don't believe that the standard antidepressant drug therapies are necessarily helpful. In fact, recent studies have suggested they are not. In spite of that, doctors tend to prescribe antidepressants very early on in the treatment of depression, when often all people need is a listening ear and some sensible therapeutic behavioural psychotherapy.

Nutrition can play a big part in depression for some people. There are many people who suffer from more severe depression as a result of depletion of their B vitamins. B complex vitamins (B12, B6, and folic acid) can be depleted by too much alcohol, caffeine and even the birth control pill or synthetic estrogen, and of course eating poorly. Although this has been known for some time doctors don't always prescribe B complex vitamins for depressed patients. Vitamin B6 and magnesium are often very helpful in depression associated with Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS). Aerobic exercise has been shown in many studies to be really helpful for depression, and is a necessary part of treatment.

Depression can also result from decreased light exposure, and this kind of depression is known as Seasonal Affective Disorder. It can be alleviated through daily exposure to special full spectrum light, usually about 30 minutes a day, beginning in October and ending in April. People with seasonal affective disorder have significant depression only during those months.

So the bottom line is, if you think you are depressed, contact your family physician, or other health care practitioner for a diagnosis. Once a diagnosis has been made find yourself a good psychotherapist, and begin taking extra B complex vitamins -- about 50 mg a day is adequate. There are other natural agents you can take. S-adenosylmethionine, affectionately known as Sammy (available over the counter), as well as herbs such as St. John's Wort can be effective in depression, but you should check with your healthcare advisor before taking these, as they can interact with each other, and any medication that you may be taking.

On another note thank you to those who responded to the idea of a sleep clinic. If you didn’t indicate on the last post that you would like such a workshop then please email me at

© Edward Leyton MD 2008
© Accessing resources for Empowerment 2008
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