What is depression?
In Britain, 1 in 20, or around 3 million people, are diagnosed with depression. Unipolar Depression is rated by the World Health Organization as the leading cause of disease burden amongst high-income countries.

The classic symptoms of depression include feelings of worthlessness or guilt, poor concentration, loss of energy, fatigue, thoughts of suicide or preoccupation with death, loss or increase of appetite and weight, a disturbed sleep pattern, slowing down (both physically and mentally), agitation (restlessness or anxiety).

There are 2 major classifications of depression: typical and atypical. Typical depression tends to feature loss of weight, appetite and difficulty sleeping whereas atypical depression tends to include weight gain, increased appetite and excessive sleepiness and/or sleeping.

Are you depressed?
Depression is diagnosed on the basis of symptoms in a questionnaire test, the most common being the Hamilton Rating Scale of Depression, or HRS for short. This contains questions about your mood, guilt feelings, suicidal thoughts, insomnia, agitation, anxiety, physical problems, sex drive, and so on. Depending on your test score on these questions, you will be diagnosed with either “mild,” “moderate,” or “severe” depression. Here’s a simplified depression test questionnaire to check your mood.

Try the Depression Test

Check yourself out on this simplified Mood Check.
Do you feel downhearted, blue and sad?
Do you feel worse in the morning?
Do you have crying spells, or feel like it?
Do you have trouble falling asleep, or sleeping through the night?
Is your appetite poor, or conversely, do you have strong cravings for carbohydrates?
Do you feel unattractive and unlovable?
Do you prefer to be alone?
Do you feel fearful?
Are you often tired and irritable?
Is it an effort to do the things you used to do?
Are you restless and unable to keep still?
Do you feel hopeless about the future?
Do you find it difficult to make decisions?
Do you feel less enjoyment from activities that once gave you pleasure?

If you answered yes to:

Fewer than 5: You appear to be generally positive, optimistic and able to roll with the punches. The information below will give you clues on how to handle those occasions when things aren’t going so well for you.

5 to 10: You may have a mild to moderate case of the blues. Read on to see how this can happen, and then, to the solutions. You might also consider seeking help and advice from your GP.

More than 10: You may be moderately to markedly depressed. Besides following the advice below, we recommend you seek professional help.

What causes depression?
There are many factors that can contribute to the development of depression. There might be underlying biochemical or psychological issues that predispose an individual to depression. There might be a trigger such as a stressful event, a bereavement, loss of a job, or break up of a relationship. If you are suffering with a low mood, whether you consider that it is depression or not, you should see your GP who can rule out medical causes, recommend counselling, cognitive behavioural therapy and psychotherapy, and assess your medication. Exercise is also very important and there’s lots of evidence that regular exercise boosts mood, especially if you’re able to exercise outdoors in a green environment. Even a walk in the park or a stroll by the river is thought to be beneficial.

There are a number of nutritional imbalances that can make you prone to depression. These are:

• Essential fats –do you need more Omega 3?
• Homocysteine level – is it too high, corrected with B vitamins?
• Serotonin levels – do they need boosting with amino acids?
• Blood sugar balance – is yours within the healthy range?
• Chromium – are you getting enough?
• Vitamin D – the sunshine vitamin
• Food intolerances – could food could be making you sad?

Study Resource: Food for the Brain

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