The psychiatric industry in the United States is a $330 billion industry that gives out over 230 million prescriptions for antidepressant drugs per year.
Depression in the US is higher than ever. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), over 41,000 suicides occur annually (as of the most recent 2010 statistics), and at least 8% (but probably more) of the population over 12 years of age suffers from clinical (diagnosed) depression.
So, with all of those antidepressants being prescribed, why is depression on the rise?
What Constitutes Depression?
Depression is a serious illness, and should not be confused with occasional sadness, which is completely normal. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), depression fits into the following categories:
Major depression: Symptoms that are severe enough to interfere with daily activities, such as work, school, sleep, and one’s ability to enjoy life. A person might experience just one period or episode of this type of depression, or reoccurring episodes.
Persistent depressive disorder: This type of depression refers to a period of major depression that lasts for two years or more. Symptoms could rise and fall, but a person is constantly depressed for at least two years.
Other types include postpartum depression, seasonal affective disorder (SAD), and psychotic depression. In this article, we won’t get into the specifics of these varying types of depression, but it helps to have an understanding of what depression actually entails, and what it can look like.
Do The Drugs Work?
A 2010 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association concluded that psychiatric drugs, when compared to placebos, made a minimal difference (if any) in cases of major depression (in more severe cases it seemed to be linked with improvement).
The Mayo Clinic describes the slew of side effects that come along with anti-depressant drugs:
- Increased appetite and weight gain
- Decreased sex drive and inability to orgasm
- Dry mouth
- Blurred vision
- Anxiety and increased irritability
For many sufferers of depression (although not all), the side effects of their medication might be causing more serious and debilitating symptoms than the depression, itself.
How Can I Fight Depression Without Drugs?
The good news is, there are many safe, natural and effective ways to prevent and support depression through diet and lifestyle. While these might not be a cure-all for all sufferers of depression, they can certainly be quite helpful.
Exercise is know to boost the “feel good” hormones in the brain, and certainly does. Getting regular exercise that is appropriate for your fitness level is key. This might be walking 30 minutes per day, or logging hours at the gym. Be sure to engage in types of exercise that you enjoy. For example, if you hate running, there’s no need to force yourself. Find a class or other activity that makes you feel good, and fits into your lifestyle.
Supplement with omega 3 fatty acids
Studies show that supplementation with omega 3 fatty acids can help fight depression and anxiety. Work with a Nutritionist or integrative medical practitioner to find the right dosage for you.
Top 7 Foods To Fight Depression:
Dark Leafy Greens
Dark leafy greens are essential for many reasons, and depression is definitely one. These include kale, collard greens, spinach, swiss chard, arugula and more, and are packed with the important mineral, magnesium. This mineral has been proven effective in the treatment of depression.
Walnuts are often considered a brain-healthy food, and they are even shaped like the human brain. Walnuts are high in omega 3 fatty acids, which are known to support cognitive function and improve symptoms of depression.
Wild Caught Fish
For many of the same reasons omega 3 supplementation is helpful for depression, so is wild caught fish, which is the best food source of anti-inflammatory omega 3 fatty acids. The best choice is Alaskan wild salmon, whenever possible. Always opt for wild caught versus farmed fish.
Avocados are rich in tryptophan, an amino acid that is converted to serotonin, the brain chemical that allows the brain to relax and is largely responsible for mood, memory, and sexual desire (along with other functions).
Likely due to their high antioxidant, vitamin C and quercetin content, berries are thought to decrease inflammation and increase cognitive function. Studies have even been done that show berries can be helpful in decreasing memory loss and preventing brain damage.
Raw Nuts and Seeds
Raw nuts and seeds are not only high in omega 3 fatty acids (again, walnuts especially), but also contain significant amounts of vitamin E and vitamin B6, which are excellent in supporting and calming the nervous system.
Beans and Legumes
Studies suggest that frequent consumption of legumes could help in the treatment of severe depressed mood (SDM), however not for post-menopausal women (whereas they actually might be harmful).
If you or someone you love suffers from depression, finding the support and treatment you need is highly individualized. However, keeping in mind that psychiatric drugs very well might not be the solution, and certainly are not the only choice, can encourage you to adopt healthy diet and lifestyle changes that are safe, effective and offer endless benefits to your brain and body.
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-  https://www.psychiatrist.com/jcp/article/Pages/2011/v72n08/v72n0805.aspx. Retrieved February 25, 2016.
-  https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0306987706001034. Retrieved February 25, 2016.
-  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20100387. Retrieved February 25, 2016.