Are you feeling sad and “blue,” and just can’t seem to shake it? Do you find it hard to get out of bed in the morning, and do you just want to hide under the covers and “make the world go away?” Are you tired all of the time, and not sleeping well at night? Or maybe “wired but tired?”

Have you stopped socializing and lost interest in the activities that you used to love?

Do you feel like nothing is going to change or get better? Have you been feeling this way for more than two weeks?

Anyone can get the blues. But if it seems that sadness and feelings of worthlessness and despair have become part of your everyday life, it may be time for you to talk with your doctor about depression.

Depression affects so many people that it is sometimes referred to as the “common cold of mental health.” It is an illness that can affect anyone, regardless of age, race, class, or gender. Depression affects more than 19 million Americans each year and more than 350 million people of all ages globally. Depression can affect a patient's ability to work or go to school, maintain healthy relationships, and make daily activities more difficult to perform. It can also cause physical symptoms such as headaches and physical pain.

Often, depression is a result of a neurological imbalance. Proper neurological function relies on effective and expedient communication between many different regions of the brain. An imbalance or malfunction in neurotransmitter activity can interrupt communication between neurons. Such disruption can cause significant neurological interference that may result in the development of depression.

Neurotransmitters regulate many neurological functions, perhaps the most influential being mood. Specific neurotransmitters relating to depression and mood regulation are serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine. When the brain is in short supply of these essential chemicals, various issues and symptoms can arise. Depending on individual patient factors, resolving symptoms of depression associated with a deficiency in these areas may require optimization of one or more of the following neurotransmitters.

When someone develops depression, the brain usually becomes the focus of attention. But other organs can be the source of the problem. A common example is when the thyroid gland produces too little hormone — a condition known as hypothyroidism. In patients with depression, anxiety, and other psychiatric problems, doctors often find abnormal blood levels of thyroid hormone. Treating the problem, they have found, can lead to improvements in mood, memory, and cognition.

It is likely that some people are taking antidepressants when they should really be treating their thyroid. Nearly 10 million Americans suffer from hypothyroidism. The condition is much more common in women than in men and becomes more prevalent with age. As many as one in five women will develop hypothyroidism by age 60. The dysfunction present with these conditions typically includes reduced T4 to T3 conversion and reduced uptake of T4 into the cell, which blocks the thyroid effect and is an indicator of reduced transport of T4 into the cell and across the blood-brain barrier.

With an understanding of thyroid physiology and associated dysfunction that is present in depressed patients, timed-released T3 supplementation should be considered in all depressed and bipolar patients despite “normal” serum thyroid levels. Additionally, straight T4 should be considered inappropriate and suboptimal therapy for replacement in such patients.

Due to the interconnectivity of the mind and body, there are a host of physiological issues that can lead to depression including adrenal dysfunction, an imbalance of sex hormones, gut dysfunction, and more. Doctors at Holtorf Medical Group are specially trained to recognize and treat depression. We can also determine if your depression is being caused by a medical condition such as a hormone imbalance or serotonin deficiency, rather than immediately prescribing antidepressants to mask symptoms. Our innovative treatment options can address the underlying problem to help turn depression around.

Working with a therapist is often an important part of successfully managing depression. Psychotherapy will focus on helping people adjust their lifestyle in ways that are possible, minimize their stress, and cope with stressors. Among the issues that you can address together are how to improve your self-esteem, switch from negative to positive thinking, and practice stress management. Writing in a journal is great therapy; you can relieve stress by being open about your thoughts, feelings, and concerns in your writing. You’ll be amazed at how much better you feel after putting pen to paper for just a few minutes each day.

People with depression often experience low self-esteem, so finding ways to feel better about yourself is an important aspect of treatment. Practice positive thinking by focusing your thoughts on your best qualities. You can also make lifestyle changes that can improve your self-esteem, such as eating a healthy diet, getting regular exercise, and spending time with friends who make you feel good about who you are. Alcohol isn’t the answer when you’re struggling with depression. Drinking can make depression even worse, and alcohol may also have a negative interaction with medications you’re taking to control depression. A healthy lifestyle is needed to manage depression, and avoiding drugs and alcohol is one key to a healthy lifestyle.

If you are suffering from depression, you may feel hopeless and helpless. But you are not alone.

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